FDA continues its war on smokers

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The war against smokers continued in full force Tuesday afternoon with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) unveiling nine graphic health warnings that will be required to be on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States no later than September 2012.

“President Obama is committed to protecting our nation’s children and the American people from the dangers of tobacco use. These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “President Obama wants to make tobacco-related death and disease part of the nation’s past, and not our future.”

Cigarette labels have not seen this large a change in over 25 years. The new requirements will affect all industry packaging and advertising.

The warnings fulfill requirements set forth by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which President Obama signed into law on June 22, 2009, and are meant to deter consumers from smoking and help current smokers to quit. Each warning will be accompanied with a smoking cessation number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

“The Tobacco Control Act requires FDA to provide current and potential smokers with clear and truthful information about the risks of smoking – these warnings do that,” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

The FDA selected the nine images from 35 proposals after examining the results of a 18,000 person study and taking comments from adovcacy groups and health professionals.

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The new requirements are part of the administration’s larger fight against tobacco announced by HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H. “Ending the Tobacco Epidemic: A Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan,” which lays out specific actions to eliminate tobacco-related ailments and death.

According to Koh, these warning labels are meant to prevent smoking among all people, especially children, and to counter the tobacco industry’s “$12.5 billion a year to glamorize and normalize this product.”

Twenty percent of adult Americans smoke, but according to Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, the Obama administration hopes to “get everyone to stop smoking.”

President Obama’s own cigarette habit has been a topic of much scrutiny since the 2008 election. In February First Lady Obama told reporters that the president had not smoked in nearly 12 months.

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