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Stogie News: FDA Unveils Graphic Tobacco Warning Labels

11 Nov 2010

Yesterday, the FDA announced new graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging. The change is part of the so-called Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which was signed into law in 2009 by President Obama and gives the FDA wide-ranging powers to regulate tobacco products—including the authority to regulate cigars without any further Congressional action.

The new warning labels take up the top half of the front and back of each pack of cigarettes. Unlike previous text warnings, they include graphics and many cartoon images. All cigarette packaging will be required to use the new warnings by June 2011.

A number of the warning labels portray situations that seem to have no basis in reality. One such image portrays a smoker deliberately blowing smoke in the face of a nonsmoker. Another label shows a cigarette smoker injecting a cigarette into his arm like heroin. The new warning labels come as the FDA is moving to expand its oversight to include cigars. And they follow a trend in cities, like New York, that seek to require tobacconists to display posters of decaying lungs and other anti-smoking messages.


Like the New York City law, these new graphic warning labels will surely be challenged on the grounds that they violate protected first amendment rights. They steal valuable space  from tobacco retailers and manufacturers (who, contrary to the wishes of anti-smoking zealots, are protected by the Bill of Rights) and force them to subsidize a message with which they may disagree.

Furthermore, some of the messages are misleading—if not outright wrong. For example, the image of smoke being breathed in by a nonsmoker implies that brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, even though scientific studies cannot support such claims and only show that prolonged long-term exposure increases the risk of lung cancer.

Critics would also be right in questioning the effectiveness of such graphic labels. There is little question that smokers are already aware of the many health risks of smoking, and evidence even demonstrates that both smokers and nonsmokers overestimate the risks of smoking.

While the new FDA labels won’t immediately impact cigars, there are serious ramifications going forward. The artwork and presentation of cigars has long been an important aspect of the cigar experience, and forcing cigar makers to add ugly warnings would damage those important aesthetics. What’s more, since cigars are often sold individually, the FDA could require each individual cigar to contain a warning, which would not only damage the look of the cigar, but increase the cost and impact how cigars are packaged and, thus, aged.

Patrick S

photo credits: FDA

5 Responses to “Stogie News: FDA Unveils Graphic Tobacco Warning Labels”

  1. Frank Herrera Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    Use of cartoons by the FDA …. hmmm… Great article Patrick.

  2. dmjones1009 Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 3:57 am #

    Great article, Patrick.

    Like it or not, we smokers of all kinds are in the same boat when it comes to government regulation and public perception: most people simply do not see a difference between cigarette and cigar smokers. Even though we all know there is a difference, I think our time is better spent fighting the thinking behind these laws rather than trying to educate people (who just don't care) about the differences. If we allow this kind of nonsense to happen to the cigarette market, it's only a matter of time before they apply similar tactics to machine-made cigars…then they'll come after premium cigars. Incrementalism is the way the statists have worked for decades. We need to have the attitude of not allowing another inch of ground to them…then push them back.

  3. Tim Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 6:23 am #

    I don't know your guys politics but this is a good chance to poke fun at the FDA's move and point to the real threat against our freedoms – big government:

  4. scratch Friday, November 12, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    This is another disturbing step towards creating more public animosity towards smoking in general. Some people really do believe second hand smoke is extremely dangerous cause of growing up around misleading propaganda. I've met people that would literally run from the sight of tobacco smoke. It makes it harder to convince people its a basic right, when people think you're trying to hurt other people.

  5. Chris V Friday, November 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    It's good to finally have evidence that I'm not the only one that likes my tobacco injected…