Questions About Smoking, Tobacco, and Health

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What’s being done to protect people from the hazards of smoking?

Tobacco labels

Since 1966, the US Surgeon General’s health warnings have been required on all cigarette packages and, since 1987, on all spit or oral tobacco products. Since 2001, the 7 major cigar manufacturers in the United States have provided 5 health warnings that rotate on cigar labels. These labels are much like those on cigarette packages.

On June 21, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its selection of 9 larger, more prominent, color graphic cigarette health warnings. As of September 2012, all cigarettes for sale or distribution in the United States were to be packaged or advertised with these new cigarette health warnings and a stop smoking hotline number. Studies have shown that viewers had a stronger response to the pictures than to written warnings. But tobacco companies successfully sued to have this requirement put on hold.


Congress banned cigarette advertising on TV and radio in 1971 and spit tobacco advertising in 1987. The American Legacy Foundation and many states have made anti-smoking public service messages that are featured on television, radio, and billboards. Some tobacco companies have come up with their own ads, which appear to be anti-smoking, but seem to actually promote a more favorable attitude toward the tobacco industry. The new FDA regulations mentioned above require that any tobacco ad use 20% of its ad space to display warnings about the dangers of smoking.

New laws affect tobacco marketing

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act went into effect in October 2009. This law gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) power to regulate tobacco products in the United States.

One of the goals of the law is to restrict the marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Colorful ads and store displays are no longer permitted. Only black and white text ads are allowed. And in 2010, it became illegal to place outdoor tobacco ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.


Taxes on cigarettes have risen in many states in recent years. These increased costs have been shown to discourage young people from starting to smoke and encourage smokers to quit. As of early 2014, the federal cigarette tax is $1.01 per pack. State taxes on tobacco vary from as low as 17 cents (in Missouri) to up to $4.35 a pack (in New York).

Nearly all states and Washington DC levy their own taxes on other tobacco products such as cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, and chewing tobacco. As of 2014, Pennsylvania charges no state tax on non-cigarette tobacco products, while Minnesota and Washington both charge 95% of the wholesale price of the tobacco product in taxes.

Smoking bans

Laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia restrict or do not allow smoking in certain public places. These laws range from simple restrictions, such as designated areas in state or local government buildings, to laws that ban smoking in all public places and workplaces. Federal buildings are required to be smoke-free. Smoking is also banned on all domestic airplane flights.

According to the US Surgeon General, smoke-free policies that ban smoking in all indoor areas are the only way to be sure that people are not exposed to secondhand smoke at work and in other public places.

Last Medical Review: 02/13/2014
Last Revised: 02/13/2014