U.S. cigarette packages to carry new health warnings
The FDA said it finalized eleven health warnings, which represent the most significant change to cigarette labels in 35 years, to be displayed prominently on the cigarette packages and advertisements from June 18, 2021.
By law, the new warnings must appear on cigarette packs and advertisements fifteen months after the final rule is issued.
The warnings will be in text form with color images depicting some of the lesser-known, but serious health risks of cigarette smoking, including impact to fetal growth, cardiac disease, and diabetes.
Mitch Zeller, director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said, "Research shows that the current warnings on cigarettes, which have not changed since 1984, have become virtually invisible to both smokers and non-smokers, in part because of their small size, location and lack of an image."
According to the agency, the new warnings must occupy the top 50 percent of the area of the front as well as rear panels of cigarette packages, and at least 20 percent of the area at the top of cigarette advertisements.
Once implemented, these warnings must be randomly and equally displayed distributed on cigarette packages and also be rotated quarterly in cigarette advertisements.
The FDA noted that smoking is responsible for an estimated 5,000 bladder cancer deaths in the U.S. each year, with current smokers have been found to have almost four times the risk of bladder cancer as never smokers. Yet, research showed the public has limited awareness of bladder cancer as a consequence of smoking.
Various health groups have welcomed the FDA's move, saying that the agency has taken a "critical and long overdue step" forward in the nation's battle against tobacco use.
"The FDA must now ensure these warnings are fully implemented and vigorously defended against likely legal challenges by the tobacco industry," the health groups said in a joint statement.
The health groups are American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Truth Initiative. ■