Cigarette Health Warnings

December 18, 2011

Consumers are getting a glimpse of warnings images that will be alternating on all cigarette packages and advertisements within 15 months—an effort by health officials to discourage smoking by bringing Americans face to face with tobacco-related disease.

The Food and Drug Administration unveiled the nine, color images—including some of  bodies ravaged by disease—at a news conference. The images, which are paired with text health warnings, are required under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. They must appear on every cigarette pack, carton, and advertisement by September 2012.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., says she’s hopeful the graphic images will give smokers the incentive to stop smoking and prevent potential smokers from ever starting. In fact, the phone number for the smoking cessation hotline—1-800-QUIT-NOW—will accompany each warning.

“The Tobacco Control Act requires FDA to provide current and potential smokers with clear and truthful information about the risks of smoking—these warnings do that,” she says.

The bold health warnings will cover the top 50 percent of the front and rear panels of all cigarette packages and at least 20 percent of each advertisement. They are expected to decrease the number of smokers, which will save lives and increase life expectancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States, responsible for 443,000 deaths each year. Tobacco addiction costs the U.S. economy nearly $200 billion every year in medical costs and lost productivity.

Advertisements

Medicines are powerful. They can cure disease, relieve symptoms, and help you stay healthy. But they can also do a lot of damage if taken incorrectly, when not needed, when prescribed inappropriately, or in case of medicine overdose.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that many medication-related risks can be prevented if everyone committed to the safe use of medicines works together. Acting on that belief, the agency launched the Safe Use Initiative in November 2009 to foster collaborations within the health care community that will help prevent medication errors, misuse, and abuse.

Studies estimate that up to 50 percent of harm from medication use could be prevented. According to the Institute of Medicine, this would translate into about 1.5 million preventable incidents each year.

The goal of the Safe Use Initiative is to

  • identify specific, preventable harm related to medication use
  • develop methods (interventions or strategies) to reduce harm
  • identify ways to measure the success of these interventions

Tens of millions of people in the U.S. take prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medicines each year, says Karen Weiss, M.D., director of the Safe Use Initiative. “If we can reduce injury that occurs because people are not prescribing or taking medications optimally, we can improve their individual health and the health of the public.”