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Ewwww, that's gross! A New Era in U.S. Cigarette Labeling

June 22, 2011

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD

OK, admit it - you have no idea what current cigarette packs in the U.S. have to say about the dangers of tobacco use. I've been working in this field for nearly 30 years and I'm not really sure, either. And we're not alone - very few of us remember that they say things like "Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health" in very tiny letters and are virtually hidden on one side of the pack.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced that the era of small, wordy, nearly invisible cigarette pack warnings is over. Beginning in September 2012, cigarette packs in the U.S. will be required to cover the top 50% of the front and back of every pack with graphic depictions of the consequences of tobacco use and warnings, in large letters, that say things such as "Cigarettes Cause Cancer" and "Smoking Can Kill You."

You can go here to see all nine of the images and warnings that will be on the packs starting next year. But beware - tobacco industry opponents of the new warnings have called them things like "ghoulish," "grisly," and "ghastly," and for once, they're not entirely wrong.

Of course, the big question with the new warnings is whether they will make a difference. Will they cause smokers to quit or cut back?

 

With so many other tobacco control activities going on at once -- higher tobacco taxes, increasing smokefree environments, greater availability of treatment for tobacco dependence, etc. -- it will be a bit difficult to tease out the specific effects of the new warning labels. But we do know that there are a number of countries - such as Canada, Australia, Thailand, and New Zealand - which have been pioneers in the placement of graphic warnings on their countries' cigarette packages. And what we have learned from their experience is that smokers in these countries are better-informed about the dangers of tobacco use, are more motivated to quit, and more likely to either cut back or stop smoking altogether.

 

Additionally, the World Health Organization, from their studies of the 39 countries in which graphic warning labels now exist, has determined that warnings which include pictures (similar to those the U.S. will soon have), compared to words alone:

  •  are more likely to be noticed;
  •  are rated more effective by tobacco users;
  •  are more likely to remain memorable over time;
  •  better communicate the health risks of tobacco use;
  •  provoke more thought about the health risks of tobacco use and about cessation;
  •  increase motivation and intentions to quit; and
  •  are associated with more attempts to quit.


Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, summarized the issue very succinctly, when he observed recently that "Graphic warning labels motivate smokers to quit and discourage nonsmokers from starting, are well accepted by the public, and can be effectively implemented at virtually no cost to governments."


So, stay tuned for the September 2012 debut of the new era and, even if you're as old as me, you can toss your reading glasses aside - you'll be able to see these warnings every time a cigarette smoker takes them out of their pocket, even if they're a mile away. And that's a good thing for all of us.


Thomas J. Glynn, PhD, is director of cancer science and trends and director of international cancer control for the American Cancer Society.

Comments

6/23/2011 9:24:05 AM #

Dereje Seyoum

It is realy great achievment and sucess.Though,USA has not ratified WHO-FCTC,this is a remarkable progree for the public interms of tobacco prevention and control copmaign.

Dereje Seyoum

6/26/2011 10:19:23 AM #

Libby Cone

This won't turn off macho smokers with a strong sense of denial and masochism.  Pictures of little blue and yellow teddy bears wearing frowns and connected to IV poles will.

Libby Cone

6/26/2011 3:10:57 PM #

Alicia

FINALLY!!! Our  family lost a friend several years ago to second hand smoke from coworkers. He left behind; 4 children under the age of 6 &   a beautiful wife, homemaker of the family & stay at home mom. Not oly did they loose a husband & father they had to move because of income & she had to find someone to watch her kids while she worked two jobs & ended up living with her parents in a cramped 2 bedroom home & an office they turned into a small bedroom. Smoking doesn't just kill, it destroyes lives, even lives that never chose to participate but had no other choice.

Alicia

7/25/2011 7:44:34 AM #

Lawrence Michaels

The labels on Thai cigarettes are pretty gross at times and somewhat confusing at others.  If the purpose of the cigarette labels are to deter buyers, it doesn't seem to be working here.  I suppose that when you are exposed to the same images over and over again, you begin to get desensitized to them.

Lawrence Michaels

7/26/2011 1:04:47 AM #

Addiction Forum

The new label of cigarettes packs it sure to reduce the buyers . Smokers also think about this harmful warning and sure think  in future it happen with her/him .

Addiction Forum

9/12/2011 2:36:42 AM #

C. Robinson

If I wanted to smoke, I would simply remove the cigarettes from the gross packaging and place them in another container. I promote the e-cigarettes, less intrusive.

C. Robinson

9/14/2011 11:11:13 PM #

M.R. Coleman-Dion

It is ridiculous to think that by putting disturbing images on a package of cigarettes is going to sway anyone from smoking.
If this worked we'd have no crime or people killing one another from seeing it on the news every night.
The best way to get folks to stop smoking is by showing them there are ways to reduce the harm and damage smoking causes and that is by promoting "Harm Reduction Strategies" which does work.  We already know the available "FDA approved NRT" products have a less than 5% success rate, isn't it about time the ACS and others stop touting products that benefit their cronies in BP? Could we also stop with the lies started to get people to stop smoking also?
It is time to stop supporting the pharmaceutical money makers and start supporting people with useful strategies that actually work and to stop all the propaganda like how about second hand smoking is killing people.
Those messages are really shameful and untrue.
Start supporting harm reduction techniques now!
Alicia I'm sorry for your friends loss of a father but it would not be due to just second hand smoke.

M.R. Coleman-Dion

5/8/2012 12:45:35 PM #

lyly

                                                           To Alicia,,, here we go again with people with improper education making improper advice or comments....   YES SMOKE OF ANY KIND   KILLS..........SO ANYTHING ON FIRE AND PRODUCING TOXIC FUMES ANDOR SMOKE KILLS..........SOMETIMES QUICKLY   SOMETIMES  SLOWLY..........COLEMAN'S COMMENT IS BASED ON IGNORANCE AS SOCRETES PUT IT.....OR AS i PUT IT  IMPROPER EDUCATION.........EVERY OTHER SPECIES  KNOWS THAT SMOKE IS POISON AND DANGER  .....THEY TAKE FLIGHT  IF WE HUMANS DO NOT CAGE THEM, CHAIN THEM OR STOP THEM IN ANY WAY THAT WE DO........YES  PEOPLE DO DIE EVERY MINUTE FROM THE SECOND HAND SMOKE THAT HURTS THE BODY AND CAUSES  MEDICAL CONDIITIONS THAT ARE NOT TREATED PROPERLY OR CAN NOT BE BECAUSE THE CELLS ARE TO DAMAGED ........DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE THAT THINKS THAT BREATHING SMOKE OF ANY KIND OR AMOUNT IS NOT DANGEROUS........BLESS YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS WITH PROPER EDUCATION AND THE ABILITY TO USE THEIR INSTINCTS.......

lyly

3/6/2013 8:44:43 AM #

here

You could look at the warning labels in some certain products and wonder why people proceed on to consume the product. Take a cigarette for instanced that has a warning label of a mother blowing cigarette smoke on her baby without caring to know that the baby will suffer at last. Warning labels on toxic, addictive or dangerous products are designed to be visible and to cover a huge part of the product in question.

here

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