WASHINGTON The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday unveiled a new comprehensive tobacco control strategy that includes proposed new bolder health warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements. Once final, these health warnings on cigarettes and in cigarette advertisements will be the most significant change in more than 25 years.
“Every day, almost 4,000 youth try a cigarette for the first time and 1,000 youth become regular, daily smokers,” stated HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today marks an important milestone in protecting our children and the health of the American public.”
The strategy includes a proposal issued by the Food and Drug Administration titled “Required Warnings for Cigarette Packages and Advertisements.” Specifically, the proposed rule details a requirement of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that nine new larger and more noticeable textual warning statements and color graphic images depicting the negative health consequences of smoking appear on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements. The public has an opportunity to comment on 36 proposed images through Jan. 9, 2011.
By June 22, 2011, the FDA will select the final nine graphic and textual warning statements after a comprehensive review of the relevant scientific literature, the public comments and results from an 18,000 person study. Implementation of the final rule (Sept. 22, 2012) ultimately will prohibit companies from manufacturing cigarettes without new graphic health warnings on their packages for sale or distribution in the United States. In addition, manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers will no longer be allowed to advertise cigarettes without the new graphic health warnings in the United States. By Oct. 22, 2012, manufacturers can no longer distribute cigarettes for sale in the United States that do not display the new graphic health warnings.
“Today, the FDA takes a crucial step toward reducing the tremendous toll of illness and death caused by tobacco use by proposing to dramatically change how cigarette packages and advertising look in this country. When the rule takes effect, the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes,” stated FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “This is a concrete example of how the FDA’s new responsibilities for tobacco product regulation can benefit the public’s health.”
In addition to the announcements made Wednesday, other recent tobacco control and prevention efforts include:
- The Affordable Care Act is giving Americans in private and public health plans access to recommended preventive care, such as tobacco-use cessation, at no additional cost;
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested $225 million to support local, state and national efforts to promote comprehensive tobacco control and expand tobacco quit-lines;
- The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act aims to stop the illegal sale of tobacco products over the Internet and through mail order, including the illegal sale to youth;
- The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing and distribution of tobacco products. Significant progress already has been made by restricting the use of the terms “light,” “low” and “mild,” banning characterizing fruit, candy and spice, flavors from cigarettes, and putting in place restrictions on the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to youth; and
- The Children’s Health Insurance Program Re-authorization Act raised the federal cigarette tax by 62 cents per pack. Raising the price of tobacco products is a proven way to reduce tobacco use, especially among such price-sensitive populations as youths.