Cigarette packaging could see their biggest design change in the past 35 years if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has its way. The FDA has just revealed a new proposed rule that would require manufacturers to include graphic health warnings on all cigarette packages and advertising. The proposed rule is open for public comments for 60 days, ending on Oct. 15, 2019. The FDA is seeking public comments on alternative text and images and any scientific information that supports a finding that the alternative text and images would advance the government interest in helping the general public understand the true consequences associated with cigarette smoking.
With nearly 34.3 million U.S. adults and nearly 1.4 million U.S. youth currently smoking cigarettes (according to the FDA), the agency feels realistic photo warnings on cigarette packages could help keep more people from smoking cigarettes. The proposed warnings would depict a range of health risks associated with cigarette smoking including diabetes, diabetes, and bladder cancer, among other conditions. The last time cigarette packages underwent a change like this was in 1984 when surgeon general’s warnings were added to packages and advertisements.
The FDA feels that surgeon general warnings, for the most part, have lost their impact and are ineffective due to their small size and the fact that these warnings have not changed in content or design since introduced. These new graphic warnings, however, would be designed to convey the risks associated with cigarette smoking in a more visually impactful manner. The FDA went so far as to test the new warnings on a consumer research group that reported that the new warnings taught them something they did not previously know about cigarette smoking. Each warning statement was paired with a color image. The statements included:
- WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.
- WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.
- WARNING: Smoking causes head and neck cancer.
- WARNING: Smoking causes bladder cancer, which can lead to bloody urine.
- WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth.
- WARNING: Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.
- WARNING: Smoking causes COPD, a lung disease that can be fatal.
- WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
- WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.
- WARNING: Smoking causes Type 2 diabetes, which raises blood sugar.
- WARNING: Smoking causes age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
- WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.
The FDA has already provided mockups of the new cigarette packaging that features a health warning that occupies the top 50 percent of the front and rear panels of a cigarette package and at a minimum 20 percent of there of the top of cigarette advertisements. If the proposed rule is passed, these new warnings would be required to appear on packages and on advertisements 15months after the final rule is issued.