Help Reduce the Health Burden of Tobacco Use in America—Comment on the New Proposed Graphic Health Warning Labels for Cigarette Packs and Advertisements
Cigarette smoking kills an estimated 443,000 Americans each year, most of whom began smoking when they were under the age of 18. Tobacco use is the foremost preventable cause of premature death in America, and has been shown to cause cancer, heart disease, and other serious adverse health effects. Nearly 50,000 deaths annually are attributed to non-smokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke. That’s why today, we took another important step to protect the health of the American public from the toll of disease, disability and death caused by tobacco use in this county.
Earlier this morning, I joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh and FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg to announce a proposal to require new and prominent health warnings on all cigarette packages, cartons and advertisements.
While most Americans know in general terms that tobacco is harmful, few know the key facts of how damaging tobacco is to their own health and the health of those around them. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a bill passed by an overwhelming majority of Congress, gave FDA the authority to require new, larger, and more prominent health warnings on packages and in advertising.
For cigarettes packs, cartons and ads, there will be nine warning statements and, for the first time, the FDA will require these warning labels to include color graphics clearly depicting the negative health consequences of smoking.
The Tobacco Control Act also requires the warning statements to appear on the upper 50 percent of the front and rear panels of every cigarette package. Graphic health warnings will also occupy at least 20 percent of the upper portion of every cigarette advertisement. The inclusion of larger and more noticeable graphic health warnings on packages and in advertisements will clearly and effectively convey the negative health consequences of smoking to educate all Americans about the health risks of cigarettes. The goal of course is to help encourage current smokers to quit, and discourage nonsmokers, including youth, from starting to use cigarettes.
Everyone has the opportunity to comment directly on these proposed warnings and to help FDA choose the graphic health warnings required by law for use on cigarette packages and advertisements from Friday, November 12, 2010 through Tuesday, January 11, 2011. I encourage you to view the proposed warnings at www.fda.gov/cigarettewarnings and submit a comment so your suggestions can be officially considered for the final decision on how to do this, which will be issued by June 22, 2011.
–Dr. Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H, M.D, Director FDA Center for Tobacco Products