The American Heart Association ardently disagrees with today’s ruling by a federal judge blocking the implementation of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new graphic warning labels on cigarette packs. These warning labels are a vital part of keeping children from becoming addicted and helping current smokers quit. We strongly encourage the Justice Department to appeal this ruling.
There is a clear reason why the tobacco industry is fighting these warning labels—they work. Many other countries already require graphic warning labels, and research has clearly shown that they are effective in reducing tobacco use. We know from decades of experience that the tobacco industry will fight any laws that reduce its profits from selling a deadly product. Today’s misguided court ruling could result in more deaths from tobacco addiction and more profits for the tobacco industry.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45 million Americans smoke cigarettes, about 20 percent of the population, and one in five high school students still smoke. The new health warnings represent an aggressive and welcome approach to reducing smoking rates that have leveled off in recent years as tobacco companies continue to launch campaigns to entice new smokers and maintain current customers.
The American Heart Association believes that the graphic depictions of smoking-related diseases on cigarette packages will drive home the message that tobacco use is an equal opportunity killer, affecting smokers and nonsmokers alike. In the United States, about one-third of smoking-related deaths are linked to heart disease and stroke. Cigarette smoking causes about 443,000 premature deaths each year and about 49,000 of these deaths are due to secondhand smoke.
Undoubtedly, the new graphic health warnings, if allowed to proceed, will heighten awareness about the dangers of smoking and more importantly, encourage smokers to quit and discourage smoking initiation. We are confident that future court rulings will reverse Judge Leon’s decision and allow the FDA to move forward with these important warning labels.
For more information, visit www.heart.org.