In 2011, US regulators failed to push through legislation that would force tobacco companies to include full-colour images on cigarette boxes. However, the FDA is making new proposals that would include graphic images to try and reduce smoking rates.
Most smokers are aware of the risks of smoking. As the FDA points out, it’s the leading cause of preventable death in the US and is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths a year.
But, despite a sharp decline in cigarette and tobacco use in the last twenty years, more than 34 million adults and 1.4 million teenagers in the US still smoke.
The agency’s new proposals would mean that tobacco manufacturers would be required to include new warnings including colour images, showing some of the risks of smoking. They would include a child breathing into an oxygen machine after breathing second-hand smoke.
If implemented, this would be the biggest change to cigarette packaging in over thirty years. However, earlier attempts to introduce this type of packaging in 2011 resulted in the federal judge ruling in favour of the tobacco companies.
A number of tobacco companies had, at the time, challenged the FDA’s proposals on First Amendment grounds. The judge granted a temporary restraining order against the FDA, and noted that they would probably lose any subsequent cases.
Now, the FDA is bringing the case forward again, over eight years later. They now say that the legislation would fulfil requirements of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
FDA Commissioner, Norman Sharpless, said: “As a cancer doctor and researcher, I am well aware of the staggering toll inflicted on the public health by tobacco products, which cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema and other medical problems.”
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, such as bladder cancer, diabetes and conditions that can cause blindness.”
“Given that tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., there’s a lot at stake to ensure the public understands these risks.”