FDA Makes History With Bold New Warning Labels on Cigarette Packs
Statement by Legacy President and CEO, Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled the most significant changes made to cigarette labels in 25 years with new graphic warnings covering 50 percent of cigarette packaging. The new labels are intended to make crystal clear to anyone who picks up a pack of cigarettes what the health risks are with tobacco consumption. While the general public knows some of the health risks of smoking, the severity and magnitude of those risks often remain misunderstood. Research conducted in countries that have implemented graphic warnings found that many smokers credit the warnings with motivating them to quit and/or helping them stay smoke-free.
LegacyÃ‚® applauds these new warning labels, which will go into effect in 15 months. The states have made ‘penny wise pound foolish’ cuts that undercut the public health infrastructure that is needed as smokers reach out for help. As a result, before these new packs hit store shelves, we need to make sure the state quitlines are ready to respond to the onslaught of calls so smokers can get the help they desperately need. We are especially supportive of the decision to include the 1-800-QUIT-NOW number, a national, toll-free telephonic smoking cessation resource.
These new graphic warning labels are an important first step to ensuring that everyone understands the dangers of smoking and that smokers are reminded of those risks each time they reach for their cigarettes. The warning labels, comprising the top half of cigarette packages, will contain prominent images of people impacted by tobacco-related disease as well as straight forward facts about tobacco’s health consequences, including potential death. Current warning labels on cigarettes are less effective and research shows that graphic warnings result in greater awareness and increased memory concerning the health risks of smoking. These new labels have the potential to help young smokers make more informed decisions about lighting up, and give current smokers motivation to quit as well as resource to help them quit for good.
Tobacco companies spend more than $34 million a day marketing their deadly products. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the rate of decline in youth and adult smoking has slowed in recent years – maintaining smoking as a continued public health crisis in the U.S. Tobacco remains the number-one cause of preventable death in the United States and each year 400,000 people die from tobacco-related disease.
Counter-marketing initiatives and innovative approaches to spread the truth and information about tobacco is imperative to fighting the tobacco epidemic. Today’s action by the FDA is a strong first step forward and Legacy looks forward to working with FDA to continue to improve these labels so that the nation will fully grasp the death and disease caused by tobacco, social norms will continue to change and lives will be improved, extended and saved.