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.

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