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Graphic Health Warnings Coming for U.S. Cigarette Packs

Warnings include photo-realistic color images depicting some of the lesser-known health risks of smoking

TUESDAY, March 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Graphic new health warnings must appear on cigarette packages and in cigarette ads beginning next year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

As of June 18, 2021, the 11 new warnings must be displayed prominently, filling the top half of cigarette packages on both the front and back and at least 20 percent of the area at the top of ads. The warnings include text and photo-realistic color images depicting some of the lesser-known but serious health risks of cigarette smoking, including impaired fetal growth, heart disease, and diabetes.

For example, current smokers have almost four times the risk for bladder cancer as never-smokers, and smoking is responsible for an estimated 5,000 bladder cancer deaths in the United States each year. Yet research shows the public has limited awareness of bladder cancer as a consequence of smoking.

“Research shows that the current warnings on cigarettes, which have not changed since 1984, have become virtually invisible to both smokers and nonsmokers, in part because of their small size, location, and lack of an image,” Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, said in an agency news release. “The new cigarette health warnings complement other critical FDA actions, including outreach campaigns targeted to both adults and youth, to educate the public about the dangers associated with using cigarettes, as well as other tobacco products.”

Thirteen warnings were considered. The 11 new ones were selected based on consumer research and public comments, scientific literature, and other factors, according to the FDA.

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