Health & Wellbeing

Graphic tobacco warnings coming to US after courts forced FDA action

Graphic tobacco warnings comin...
The FDA has revealed 11 new warnings that must be implemented on cigarette packets and in advertisements in the US by June 2021
The FDA has revealed 11 new warnings that must be implemented on cigarette packets and in advertisements in the US by June 2021
View 6 Images
The FDA has revealed 11 new warnings that must be implemented on cigarette packets and in advertisements in the US by June 2021
1/6
The FDA has revealed 11 new warnings that must be implemented on cigarette packets and in advertisements in the US by June 2021
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
2/6
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
3/6
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
4/6
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
5/6
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
6/6
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
View gallery - 6 images

After over a decade of legal and political battles, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally issued a conclusive new ruling regarding health warnings on cigarette packs and advertisements. The 11 new warnings will fill 50 percent of the package with text and graphic imagery depicting the health consequences of smoking.

Back in 2009 the US Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, designed primarily to establish a legal framework by which the FDA had clear regulatory authority over tobacco products. One of the fundamental elements of the new law was the requirement for all tobacco products to receive new graphic labeling to cover the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packets.

By mid-2011 the FDA fulfilled its initial part of the process by releasing the nine prospective warning labels. Within weeks a number of tobacco companies had filed lawsuits claiming the warnings were unconstitutional and violated their First Amendment rights.

One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA

After nearly another whole year of legal battles a Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with the tobacco companies, ruling the specific images in the FDA’s initial prospective warnings were indeed unconstitutional. However, a different lawsuit upheld the constitutionality of the Act itself, claiming large graphic warnings, “are reasonably related to the government’s interest in preventing consumer deception and are therefore constitutional.”

Tobacco companies appealed this decision, however, the US Supreme Court declined to review the case. And so, the constitutionality of the 2009 Tobacco Act still held, as did the FDA’s requirement to review and resubmit different graphic warnings for cigarette packets.

Years passed, and the FDA’s inaction ultimately resulted in a lawsuit being filed to compel it to comply with the Act. The lawsuit was filed in 2016 by a number of health organizations, including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.

One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA

Fast forward through another two years of onerous legal battles and in late 2018 a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ultimately ordered the FDA to issue new cigarette warnings, setting specific dates for proposed and final rules to be delivered. The judge noted while issuing the ruling that the FDA “unlawfully withheld” and “unreasonably delayed” actions necessary to comply with the Act.

The judge ordered the FDA to present its initial proposed rule by August 15, 2019, and a final rule by March 15, 2020.

The FDA subsequently hit both those deadlines … barely.

On March 17 2020, the FDA revealed its final ruling, presenting 11 health warnings it claims will need to be prominently displayed on cigarette packets and in advertising from June 18, 2021.

One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA

“The 11 finalized cigarette health warnings represent the most significant change to cigarette labels in more than 35 years and will considerably increase public awareness of lesser-known, but serious negative health consequences of cigarette smoking,” says Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

These new warnings are undeniably milder than the warnings presented in 2011. The 2011 warnings included statements such as, “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes are addictive." The new warnings are much more medically specific, with statements including, “Smoking causes COPD, a lung disease that can be fatal”, “Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness”, and “Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, which raises blood sugar.”

One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA
One of the finalized warning labels approved by the FDA

In a statement from the American Heart Association, in conjunction with the partner organizations behind the 2016 lawsuit, the new graphic warnings are called “a dramatic improvement” over current labels. However, the statement also urges the FDA to ensure these warnings are effectively implemented by tobacco companies who will clearly try to push back.

“By law, the new warnings are required to appear on cigarette packs and ads 15 months after a final rule is issued (June 18, 2021),” the statement reads. “The FDA must now ensure these warnings are fully implemented and vigorously defended against likely legal challenges by the tobacco industry.”

Source: FDA, American Heart Association

View gallery - 6 images
7 comments
Bionic88
Good!! I've traveled overseas w/ friends that smoked, and the graphics pics did little to dissuade them, though. Addiction is a SOB.
Wolf0579
Coming up on 13 years of being a non-smoker, thanks to Chantix. My lungs are toast after smoking from age 14 to age 50. I'm 63, and thanks to my stupidity as a kid, I'll probably not live through the corona virus.
RangerJones
Alcohol? Marijuana? Sugar? Media?
paul314
How long will cigarette companies delay this time? (Meanwhile, coronavirus mortality has been reported significantly high for smokers than nonsmokers, so some people may get that message.)
Wombat56
Those American images are weak as water compared to the Australian versions. Example: http://wpmedia.ottawacitizen.com/2016/07/standardized-australian-cigarette-packaging-is-displayed-fri.jpeg?quality=55&strip=all
KeithW
Yep. Smoked for 50 years. Got lung cancer. Diagnosed May 2018 aged 60. Smallish tumour (NSCC). Treatment finished Sept 2018. Lovely! Chemo is not too pleasant but not as bad as expected. Radiotherapy is not too bad at all. Led to a remission. Great ! Maintenance immunotherapy gave me crippling arthritis for 1 year. Not so great. That finished, I began to get back to being fit and healthy. Three months later (Feb this year) - recurrence. Deep joy. I knew the risks as a member of an allied health care profession since leaving school. Graphic pictures on fag packets ? Useless. I'd have been better off as a heroin addict. As long as you keep it clean it doesn't kill you. And the UK continue to ban weed whilst still making billions from alcohol and tobacco ? Hypocrasy. Either ban the lot (but prohibition just doesn't work) or leave it to folk's choice and tax the hell out of it. Use the revenue to fund curative research. Lord Denning of the Roles said this back in 1983 or thereabouts but people called him a nutter. We can't have it both ways... :)
KeithW
Wolfy - after 13 years your lungs are probably pretty well recovered. Where are you getting the opinion that they're toast? (Unless you have developed COPD.) Your heart is probably grateful you quit too. Cheer up old chap :)