Friday, March 2, 2012

Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels and Big Tobacco's Stall Tactics

Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled the FDA’s new graphic warning labels on cigarette packages violate Big Tobacco’s freedom of speech.

The decision is only one step in the legal process – the case will go on to appeal. But it is a small victory for Big Tobacco, awarding the industry’s continued aggressive and deceitful efforts to conceal the fatal health effects of smoking.

It's clear that Big Tobacco is using the courts as a stall tactic to keep effective new cigarette warning labels off their products as long as possible.

Starting this September, the FDA will require graphic warning labels to cover 50% of the front and 50% of the back of cigarette packages. The truthful, appalling labels will also be prominently featured in tobacco ads. The warnings will replace the small text-only cigarette warning labels that have not been updated since 1984.

This idea is not new. Many other countries, from Brazil to Russia, require similar graphic warnings on their cigarettes. Research from these countries shows these labels are an effective way to educate about the risks of smoking and discourage smoking. 

We need all the tools possible to further educate people about this deadly addiction and counteract the hundreds of millions of dollars the tobacco industry spends peddling their products to new and existing customers.

In Wisconsin alone, tobacco companies spend $233 million a year to market their lethal products to kids and adults – more than 40 times what the state spends on the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program ($5.3 million/year).

In case you forgot, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in Wisconsin and nearly 8,000 residents die each year from tobacco-related causes. Tobacco costs us over $4.5 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. That’s almost $2,000 per Wisconsin household!

The new cigarette warning labels will help relieve this tremendous burden on our kids, families, businesses and communities.

Let’s get these warning labels on our cigarette packages. In doing so, we’ll help the 70 percent of adult smokers who want to quit and we’ll prevent our kids from picking up this lifetime addiction. 

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