October 31, 2011

Cigarette warnings get graphic

One of the FDA-approved graphic warning labels

Full disclosure: I have worked on Tobacco Prevention and Control social marketing campaigns for more than 10 years. As you may have heard, beginning September 2012 the FDA will require cigarette companies to place very large and graphic warning labels on the packaging of their cigarette products. The nine labels can be viewed here: http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/Labeling/CigaretteWarningLabels/default.htm.
These labels will have to cover the top half of the cigarette box and 20% of any tobacco advertisement.

Imagine art directors having to work around these horrific images. Fortunately that’s not my challenge. Working with Delaware’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, our marketing challenge is to persuade residents not to start smoking or to try to quit if they do smoke. These labels will help immensely, just as the indoor smoking bans did years ago.

These labels will also upset a lot of people, particularly smokers or anyone who feels the government is going too far. But as far as I know, cigarettes are the only products that, when used as directed, will kill you, yet haven’t been recalled. Think about Toyota’s brake problems a few years ago or even asbestos.

Along with the labels, the FDA also requires the inclusion of an (often-overlooked) phone number for a free smoking cessation line. This will be a data-rich social marketing experiment on a grand level. Here’s hoping these labels will do their job and reduce smoking rates in the United States.

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