Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wow….New graphic cigarette health warnings … FDA wants to know what you think.

At a press conference this morning (November 10, 2010) Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius helped unveil a “comprehensive tobacco control strategy that includes proposed new bolder health warnings on cigarettes and advertisements. In 2009 President Obama signed into law the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” (Public Law 111-31) which required that the Food and Drug Administration add “nine new larger and more noticeable textual warning statements and color graphic images depicting the negative health consequences of smoking.” The Notice of Proposed Rule Making includes 36 proposed images that are a remarkable and long overdue improvements over the warnings Congress required on cigarette packages and advertising ,back in 1984. The FDA is also conducting an extensive 18,000 person consumer test of the proposed graphic images to help identify the nine that will most effectively help current smokers quit and discourage potential new smokers from starting. The results of the FDA’s consumer research will also be released shortly and public comment will be solicited.

The current deadline for public comment on the proposed 36 images is January 9, 2011. The wording of the nine warnings was specified by the Congress when it enacted Public Law 111-31. These warnings include:

‘‘WARNING: Cigarettes are addictive."
‘‘WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children."
‘‘WARNING: Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease."
‘‘WARNING: Cigarettes cause cancer."
‘‘WARNING: Cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease."
‘‘WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby."
‘‘WARNING: Smoking can kill you."
‘‘WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers."
‘‘WARNING: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health."

The challenge for the FDA is to identify graphic images that best amplify the statutorily mandated wording of the cigarette warnings. Federal law also requires that the warnings and graphic images make up the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packages.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said it best: “When the rule takes effect, the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes. This is a concrete example of how FDA’s new responsibilities for tobacco product regulation can benefit the public’s health.

So….take a few minutes to check out the FDA’s proposed new labels.

If you have family and friends who smoke…show them the new labels… get their advice and then tell the FDA.

The FDA has given us all an opportunity to play an important role, individually and collectively, in fighting the nation’s leading cause of premature death and preventable illness. Stronger health warnings, especially if they are accompanied by the 1 800 QUIT NOW cessation number, can help more smokers get access to effective cessation medications and discourage thousands of young people from striking the first match of what can become a lifelong, life threatening addiction.

Lets get to work. Tell the FDA what you think.

E Ripley Forbes
Director, Government Affairs


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