Graphic Cigarette Warning Lables Have Been Proven as Effective

Originally published in The Boston Globe

July 6, 2011
Edward L. Sweda Jr. (Senior attorney, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University, Letter to the Editor)

Edward L. Glaeser is correct when he touts the public health benefits of raising cigarette taxes ("Raise cigarette taxes - and skip the ugly photos," Op-ed, June 30). However, when he describes the nine graphic warning labels unveiled last month by the Food and Drug Administration as “just unproductive emotional discomfort,’’ he is badly mistaken.
More than thirty countries, including Canada and Australia, already require similar graphic warnings on tobacco packages. As a recent legal brief filed in New York by a coalition of health groups makes clear, a "massive body of research. . . indicates that prominent graphic health warnings are significantly more likely than purely textual messages to cause consumers to notice and read the warnings, to focus on and develop stronger beliefs about the serious health risks of smoking, and to take steps to quit."
Perhaps the most reliable indication that these graphic warnings will be effective is the intensity of the tobacco industry’s opposition to the adoption of these new warnings. Reynolds American, Lorillard, and other tobacco companies have already filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent the FDA from implementing these new graphic warnings.
Edward L. Sweda Jr.
Senior attorney
Public Health Advocacy Institute
Northeastern University
School of Law