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FDA Proposes New Cigarette Warning Labels

New Warning Labels Would Be Larger and More Graphic

Reactions to New Cigarette Warning Labels continued...

What does work? "The best approach is when your patient comes in and you uncover the irrationality of what they are doing," he says. "The motivation to stop smoking comes from the patient, hopefully, with some cheerleading from a doctor or health care professional. Nagging [by a partner] doesn't work, although sometimes a child will be very compelling. A child will say something like 'I want you to be around when I am getting married.'"

Fear doesn't work, he says, and may backfire. "Showing gruesome pictures can also cause anxiety in a smoker and they will go out and smoke more. I've seen enough of the psychology of smoking to know it's not a rational process."

John Banzhaf III, professor of public interest law at George Washington University and executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, an organization devoted to antismoking efforts, calls the label program "'too little, too late."

Banning smoking is a better approach, Banzhaf tells WebMD. He says the federal government should ban smoking at all institutions that accept Health and Human Services grants, for instance. Financial incentives to quit like a smoker premium surcharge and higher taxes would also do more to curb smoking than the label proposal, he says.

Tobacco Industry Response

The tobacco industry views the new warnings as unnecessary and questions their legality. “We are currently reviewing the 140-page notice issued today by the FDA regarding warning labels on cigarette packaging," says David Howard, a spokesman for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. “It is important to note that the legality of requiring larger and graphic warnings is part of our lawsuit that is currently pending in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. A hearing on the matter is expected to occur sometime next year.”

R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies filed the suit earlier this year against the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Among the points in the legal brief is that “These new warnings are not necessary to address any information deficit on the part of the American public.” 

With the graphic and new warning taking up so much space on the package, the companies also argue little space will be left for marketing messages describing the products.

You can see all the proposed new images for the warning labels on the FDA’s web site. Some of them are graphic.

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