FDA makes huge stride in tobacco prevention and control

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled nine health warnings that will be required to appear on all cigarette packages Nine-new-tobacco-warning-labelsand advertisements in the U.S. The new graphic warnings integrate text with images and will help prevent and reduce youth smoking and encourage adult smokers to quit. The labels will also help citizens understand the dangers of smoking.

As a bold measure, the new change is the most significant transformation to warning labels in the past 25 years, effecting both packaging and advertisements. Manufacturers are required to implement the change no later September 2012.

“The current labels—which have not been changed in decades— are barely noticeable, but now our country can be proud to join 43 countries that require startling but realistic images on cigarette packages,” said Lorriane Lathen, program director, Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network. It’s about time we see a drastic change like this; our statics show that a change like this is actually overdue.”

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable and premature death in the U.S. In Wisconsin, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure causes approximately 15 percent of all deaths—claiming about 7,717 lives. But within certain communities, the effects of tobacco are even more devastating.

One-third (33 percent) of African American Wisconsinites smoke, making us twice as likely to die from a tobacco related illness as whites. Strategic marketing plays a major role in the higher smoking rates seen in African American communities. A 2007 study published in the Public Health Report found 2.6 more tobacco advertisements per person in African American communities in comparison to suburban communities.

“These new warnings complement our efforts to reduce smoking and smoking related disparities. But it does not replace our work,” said Lathen. “We must continue or increase our Tobacco Prevention and Control Program funding to continue working on behalf of Wisconsinites and those who are at greater risks of being affected by tobacco.”

The FDA selected the nine images from 36 images that were proposed in November 2010. The Warnings are required under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which passed with strong bipartisan support in Congress and was signed into law by President Obama on June 22, 2009.

Each warning will include a smoking cessation phone number to increase the probability that smokers who are ready can quit successfully. The new warning labels are expected to have a significant impact on public health—decreasing the number of smokers, saving lives and even increasing life expectancy.

“We are inspired by the FDA’s boldness and appreciate its decision to protect citizens and future generations from the harmful affects of tobacco use,” said Lathen.

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