Defending Cigarette Graphic Warning Labels

(November 10, 2011)

As we reported in June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enacted a rule, required by the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, as of fall 2012. On November 7, a U.S. District Court Judge made a shocking ruling that blocks the FDA from moving forward with these labels. The American Lung Association strongly disagrees with this ruling, which presents a direct and immediate threat to public health. The Lung Association has strongly urged the federal government to appeal the decision.

This ruling is the result of intense effort by Big Tobacco to block the placement of larger, more graphic warning labels, and preserve the small, easily dismissed warnings that have been on packs for more than 25 years.
Large, graphic warnings, with blunt language and images about the deadly health effects of tobacco use, have been proven to reduce smoking, and keep nonsmokers from starting. By contrast, the old warnings, hidden on the side of packs, have been largely ineffective and will result in more lives lost to tobacco.

Implementing these new graphic warning labels was the result of a very thorough and comprehensive scientific evaluation conducted by the FDA.  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.”
Perhaps most importantly, 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 their addictive product.

The American Lung Association and its public health partners are determined to stop this ruling from endangering American lives. We filed this amicus brief in September 2011, defending the implementation of graphic warning labels, and our fight will continue until cigarette packaging boldly displays the message that smoking is deadly.

Want to join our fight? There are a number of ways you can get involved in our fight against tobacco use, including joining our Lung Action Network, or by making a donation to further our fight for healthy lungs.

Need Help Quitting?
The Lung Association is hoping that these labels will discourage children and teens from starting to smoke 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 ( 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.