Adventist health leaders welcome new U.S. cigarette warning labels N


The new warning as it would appear on a cigarette package.
23 Jun 2011, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States…Ansel Oliver/ANN

Seventh-day Adventist health leaders welcomed the United States’ new policy requiring of cigarette manufacturers to add new graphic warning labels on cigarette packs and advertising by October of next year.

U.S. officials on Tuesday announced the requirement for cigarette makers to display on packs one of nine graphic images, including a sick smoker struggling to breathe with an oxygen mask or a mouth with stained teeth. The labels go beyond the small, text-only warnings, which were last adjusted in the 1980s.

The new graphic warnings must cover the top 50 percent of all cigarette packs and 20 percent of the top of each advertisement, officials from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said.

The warning labels are part of a 2009 law that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco. Several tobacco companies subsequently sued the FDA, saying the labeling requirement violates their Constitutional right to free speech.

“It’s precisely because we support freedom of speech that we welcome the use of pictures that are each worth a thousand words,” said Dr. Allan Handysides, Health Ministries director of the Adventist world church. “The pictures will transmit a message that is both truthful and remedial in nature.”

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the U.S. and is linked to some 5 million deaths worldwide each year, Handysides said. About one in five adults and teens in the U.S. smoke.

Major U.S. news agencies reported Wednesday that top tobacco makers declined to comment on the warning labels or said that they were “reviewing them.”

About two dozen other countries require graphic warning images, including the U.S.’s northern neighbor, Canada, which in 2000 required no less than 60 percent of labels and advertising to carry warnings. That has significantly dropped the rate of smoking there, Handysides said.

Adventist Church Associate Health Ministries Director Dr. Peter Landless praised the move and urged the U.S. Government to do more.

“We affirm the U.S. Government for this courageous initiative and urge them to proceed with the next bold, logical and overduestep — to ratify the World Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” he said, referring to a treaty adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2003. The U.S. is one of 22 nations that has not ratified the treaty, which sets universal standards stating the dangers of tobacco and limiting its use.

“Smoking and lung cancer are inextricably and causally related both in those who smoke and those exposed to second hand smoke,” Landless said. “Every means must be employed to decrease the number of current smokers if the number of people dying from tobacco related deaths are to bedecreased.”

The Adventist Church, whose Five Day Stop Smoking Plan was one of the first smoking cessation programs, now largely partners with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, theAmerican Cancer Society and the American Heart and Lung Associations.

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