Big Win: FDA Approves Graphic Warning Labels on Cigarette Packs!


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FDA approved listened to public input and approved 11 new anti-smoking graphic warning labels that it will require tobacco companies to add to cigarette packs starting June 18, 2021.

The warnings feature written statements with photo-realistic color images depicting some serious health risks of cigarette smoking. These include impact to fetal growth, cardiac disease, diabetes, and more.

Last year, over 402 members of the Salud America! network sent emails to FDA to speak in favor of the warning labels for cigarette packages and advertisements.

“The 11 finalized cigarette health warnings represent the most significant change to cigarette labels in more than 35 years,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, in a news release. “[This] will considerably increase public awareness of lesser-known, but serious negative health consequences of cigarette smoking.”

Creation and Review of New Anti-Smoking Graphic Warning Labels

Research shows that effective warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with smoking and can influence future decisions about smoking. Smoking can weaken the function of the lungs and leave people more susceptible to diseases, including the latest coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).

Over 120 countries use graphic warning labels on cigarette packs.

fda cigarette graphic warning labels smokingFor more than 10 years, health experts have pushed to add the United States to this list.

In 2016, a coalition of anti-tobacco and public-health groups sued the FDA for “unreasonably” delaying its final rule for the warning labels, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

FDA released 13 proposed graphic warning labels in August 2019 and sought public feedback.

Various health groups, including Salud America!, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Truth Initiative responded to the final rule in a written statement.

Finalization of New Anti-Smoking Graphic Warning Labels

“Based on the full results of the FDA’s consumer research studies, the relevant scientific literature, public comments submitted to the proposed rule docket and other legal and policy considerations, 11 out of 13 warnings were taken under consideration,” according to the agency’s website.

These include:

  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.
  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.
  • FDA Proposes New Required Health Warnings For Cigarette PackagesWARNING: Smoking causes head and neck cancer.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes bladder cancer, which can lead to bloody urine.
  • WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth.
  • WARNING: Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes COPD, a lung disease that can be fatal.
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, which raises blood sugar.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.

FDA will require these new cigarette health warnings to appear prominently on cigarette packages and in advertisements. The labels will occupy the top 50% of the area of the front and rear panels of cigarette packages. They will occupy at least 20% of the area at the top of cigarette advertisements.

The tobacco industry is already threatening to combat the new warnings, CNN reports.

However, the health coalition behind the 2016 lawsuit, said “the FDA must now ensure these warnings are fully implemented and vigorously defended against likely legal challenges by the tobacco industry.”

“The graphic warnings are a dramatic improvement over the current text-only warnings, which have become stale and unnoticed since they were last updated in 1984,” according to the coalition’s statement. “They are supported by extensive scientific evidence and will help the United States catch up to the 120-plus countries that have adopted this best-practice strategy to reduce tobacco use and save lives.”

In the Wake of Graphic Warning Labels, Get Help to Quit Smoking!

You don’t have to wait on the graphic warning labels.

Quit Smoking today!

Get help from the Quitxt program, a bilingual messaging service led by Dr. Amelie Ramirez, head of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.

Quitxt uses text messages or Facebook Messenger chat to help with motivation to quit, setting a quit date, finding things to do instead of smoking, handling stress, using nicotine replacement if needed, and more.

Join Quitxt via Facebook Messenger, just hit “send message”!

Learn more about Quitxt message program in English or Spanish to help you quit smoking today:


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