On August 16, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration released a new proposed rule that would require cigarette companies to update the packaging and labeling of their products to make health warnings more noticeable. The goal of this regulatory move is to help promote greater public awareness about smoking risks and ensure consumers have the information they need to make healthier purchase decisions.
Once finalized, the FDA's proposed change would require all cigarette labels and advertising to include photo-realistic color images in conjunction with written health warnings. This rule was first proposed back in 2010, but was shot down by tobacco companies during a contentious legal battle, The New York Times reported. All 13 of the FDA's proposed warnings would be placed on the top half of cigarette packs sold within the U.S. and would feature targeted images along with definitive statements about the medical consequences of smoking. Some of the proposed warnings include:
- Smoking causes age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
- Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.
- Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.
- Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.
Each of these statements would be paired with a specific image (often highly graphic) that provides greater context for the spotlighted health issue. This labeling tactic has already been adopted by several other countries around the globe, with the World Health Organization arguing that gruesome photos on cigarette packages are proven to reduce tobacco use.
The Impact of New Labeling Regulations
Over the past few years, the FDA has become more active in creating updated labeling guidelines for food and beverage items, but has not made much headway within the tobacco industry. The agency's proposed rule represents the first substantial change to tobacco labeling in over three decades and would likely cause significant disruption for cigarette manufacturers. However, many in the FDA believe this change is necessary to combat chronic health issues stem from habitual smoking and reduce healthcare costs.
"While most people assume the public knows all they need to understand about the harms of cigarette smoking, there's a surprising number of lesser-known risks that both youth and adult smokers and nonsmokers may simply not be aware of," said Dr. Norman Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner, in a press release on the agency's website
While it's still unclear how the proposed labeling updates will impact tobacco sales in the years to come, it's likely cigarette companies will need to completely overhaul their packaging and labeling workflows to stay compliant. These sort of labeling requirements are constantly changing, so be sure to view our high-quality label printers at Argon Technology's U.S. store or Canada page.