Cigarette Warnings Get Graphic

Washington, D.C. (June 21, 2011)

Cigarette warning labelFor 25 years, warning labels on cigarettes have gone almost completely unnoticed.  As required by the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has enacted a final rule that requires graphic health warnings on all cigarette packages and advertisements starting in fall 2012.

The warnings combine graphic images with bolded comments like “Cigarettes Cause Cancer” to speak directly to the harmful effects of tobacco products.  You can view the final images FDA selected here.

This regulation is the result of a scientific evaluation conducted by the FDA and other health agencies.  While the graphic images displayed on the new warning labels may be disturbing to some, the World Health Organization has concluded that “health warnings on tobacco packages increase smokers’ awareness of their risk. Use of pictures with graphic depictions of disease and other negative images has greater impact than words alone.”

Studies have also found graphic images to be effective at deterring children from smoking – the tobacco industry’s prime target when seeking new customers for its addictive product.

The American Lung Association has fought hard to see these bolder warning labels added to cigarette packs, and is planning to work with the FDA to make sure the graphic images are rotated so that consumers don’t become desensitized to their urgency and impact.

FDA also heeded the recommendations of the Lung Association and other public health organizations that urged the inclusion of 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a toll-free quit smoking help line, on each graphic warning label. Smokers who think about quitting as a result of seeing these graphic warning labels, need to know who to turn to for the help they need to quit.

“Quitting smoking is the single most important step a person can take to improve his or her health.  Investing in smoking cessation must be a priority to prevent disease, save lives and curb health costs,” said Paul Billings, Vice President of National Policy and Advocacy at the American Lung Association.

The American Lung Association is also urging states to fund their smoking quitlines.
“No smoker should hear a busy signal or be placed into voicemail after making the life-saving decision to quit smoking,” Billings said.

Need Help Quitting?
The Lung Association is hoping that these labels will discourage children and teens from starting smoking and influence smokers to quit. The American Lung Association has been successfully helping smokers quit for more than 30 years with its Freedom From Smoking® program, which provides a personalized step-by-step quit plan and is available as a face-to-face program or online (www.ffsonline.org). The Lung Association offers the N-O-T (Not On Tobacco) program, designed to help teens quit smoking while addressing other related teen stressors. For assistance with quitting smoking or for additional questions about lung health, please call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-548-8252.