FDA Misses Mark with New Warning Labels

The FDA recently proposed a new slate of warning labels to appear on cigarette packages.  While I applaud the FDA for seeking to reduce the number of smokers (currently 46 million people), their approach is seriously flawed.

“When the rule takes effect, the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said in a statement.

Really? I would argue that most Americans, including current smokers, are already well aware of the dangers of smoking.

“They may help me make better decisions,” said John Strobel, 30, a building engineer from Maryland who has smoked for 16 years and was interviewed by The Washington Post. “But really, they’re not telling me anything I don’t know.”

Instead of awareness, FDA should focus on other aspects of smoking.  For example, many smokers want to quit, but need help.  FDA warning labels would be more effective if they included tips for quitting or promoted a 1-800 line to speak with a counselor.

As for younger smokers, danger is part of smoking’s appeal.  Some studies have even shown that strong messaging may increase smoking’s appeal.  More effective would be a message similar to one used by the American Legacy Foundation.  They positioned tobacco companies as manipulating teens into become addicted to their products (and money).

The FDA has a great opportunity to drive down tobacco usage.  But they could be a lot more effective with these strategies than simply telling people what they already know.


One Response

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mimi Carter, Joseph LaMountain. Joseph LaMountain said: FDA Misses Mark with New Warning Labels: http://wp.me/pinP3-no […]

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