May 31st marks World No Tobacco Day, where an effort is made towards stressing the adverse effects of tobacco use to the health of people worldwide. On this day, people are enjoined to either spread the word about the ill effects of tobacco or, for those who are smokers, try to stay away from smoking at least for a day. This year, the commemoration focuses on warnings placed on tobacco products and the need for the inclusion of more graphic warnings on packages.
The American Lung Association is encouraging citizens to write to their respective senators about the inclusion of graphic labels on tobacco products. A pending legislation before the US Senate, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, will empower the US Food and Drug Administration and give them control over the marketing, manufacture and sale of tobacco products. This means that the FDA will also have the authority to modify warning labels to make sure that these remain effective.
The World Health Organization also sees the need to graphic warnings on packages. The agency said that “cigarette packages should include images of sickness and suffering caused by tobacco, along with written warnings.”
Tobacco is known as the leading cause of preventable death, and is responsible for the death of more than 5 million people worldwide annually. In the US, it is responsible for the deaths of more than 392,000 Americans each year. It is also the only consumer product that is legal that “kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer.” Normally, it is the other way around.
The drive for more graphic warnings stems from the fact that warning pictures have been known to be successful at helping smokers quit or preventing others from getting hooked. This observation is as true in the US, as indicated on the American Lung Association’s website, as it is in other places in the world. The WHO revealed consistent findings in studies of similar campaigns conducted in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand.