Cigarette Pack Warnings May Get Scarier
Senate Committee OKs Larger and More Graphic Warning Labels
July 25, 2007 -- Those familiar surgeon general's health warnings on
cigarette packages may be getting a lot more noticeable under an agreement
reached in a Senate committee Wednesday.
The deal would force the government to expand the size and color of the
warnings on every pack of cigarettes. It would also allow the government to use
graphic photos of cancer and other diseases caused by cigarettes in an effort
to ward off potential smokers.
"Our warning labels have to be updated. We've had the same warning label
on there for years. It's just become a normal part of the package," says
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education,
Labor, and Pensions Committee.
The deal came while the committee was considering a bill giving the FDA new
authority to regulate tobacco. While the agency has claimed jurisdiction over
tobacco before, the Supreme Court has ruled that the FDA can't regulate
cigarettes or their marketing unless Congress gives it new powers.
Smokers in Canada, the U.K., and Australia see stronger health warnings on
cigarette packages than do smokers in the U.S.
Canadian packages use graphic images and stark health warnings like
"Tobacco use can make you impotent."
A study released in March concluded that smokers in Canada and the other
countries were more likely to take notice of current health warnings on
cigarette packs than U.S. smokers were. Enzi referred to the study as he tried
to convince committee members to accept his change.
"I think we ought to be trying to scare smokers or anyone considering
smoking," Enzi says. "The warnings work. We should want kids thinking
about taking up this deadly habit to have a bit of shock when they look at the
package. We should want smokers to think about these health messages every time
they light up."
The original bill would have given the FDA the option of increasing the size
of package warnings, but would not have forced the change. It also would have
allowed warnings to take up no more than half the package. Wednesday's deal
requires the government to make the label changes and mandates than they take
up no less than half the package.
"It seems to me we're dealing with people who are spending billions of
dollars in marketing to get kids to smoke," says Sen. Bernie Sanders,
I-Vt., who backed the deal.
Public health groups and at least one tobacco company, Philip Morris, are
backing the overall bill. Other cigarette makes are against it.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the bill's author, at first resisted attempts
to enact stricter health warnings on cigarette packs. But after several members
said they support the deal, Kennedy said, "I'd suggest that we take
The committee is scheduled to continue debate on the bill Thursday.