The Food and Drug Administration has just unveiled nine new graphic warning labels to be placed on all cigarette packs. This initiative is part of the agency’s continuous efforts to regulate tobacco and tobacco products.
All cigarette packages are now required to carry one graphic image and one warning label. The warnings must cover both the front and the back upper portion of the pack and labels must cover at least 20% of cigarette ads. In addition, the labels will also have a phone number — 1-800-QUIT-NOW – for smokers who wish to seek help to kick the habit. Smaller ads, 12 inches or less, will not be required to cover as much but will still need to contain a warning. The FDA says that new packaging ads must be in place by September 2012.
The initiative is part of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) which requires that cigarette packs and advertisements have larger and more visible health warnings in an effort to educate the public about the health risks associated with smoking. The FDA is required by the Tobacco Control Act to provide current and potential smokers with clear and truthful information about the risks of smoking, which resulted in the creation of the new graphic labels.
The two largest tobacco companies in the US, R.J Reynolds and Phillip Morris responded to the FDA regarding the labels, stating the new requirements violated both the First and Fifth Amendments. R.J Reynolds said, “The anti-smoking message is not intended to provide information that smokers and potential smokers can consider rationally in weighing the risks and perceived benefits from smoking. Rather, it plainly conveys — through graphic images and designs intended to elicit loathing, disgust, and repulsion — the Government’s viewpoint that the risks associated with smoking cigarettes outweigh the pleasure that smokers derive from them and, therefore, that no one should use these lawful products.”
Regardless tobacco companies’ opposition, the new labels unveiled by the FDA will go on the cigarettes packs and the US will be the 40th country to carry graphic warnings on packs. Countries such as Canada, Brazil and Australia have already carried graphic warnings for years and this move will make the US compliant with the World Health Organization’s global treaty on tobacco which mandates that 35% of cigarette packs be covered with warnings.
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