Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The FDA Bares Its (Yellow) Teeth on Tobacco

Tomorrow, November 18, is the 35th annual Great American Smokeout, a day when health-related organizations across the country encourage those who indulge in cigarettes to ignore the habit and live a day as a non-smoker.

According to a short history from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Smokeout began in 1972 in Randolph, Massachusetts, when a high-school guidance counselor challenged locals to donate their day's cigarette money to a scholarship fund.

The CDC's Web site also provides multiple online publications dedicated to information about the effects of Smoking and Tobacco use. These reports include information on women and tobacco specifically, recent Federal legislation and policies on tobacco use, and extensive amounts of data, such as this page of highlights on Colorado and the Surgeon General's reports on smoking and tobacco use from the past decade.

A recent addition to the national conversation on smoking comes from President Barack Obama, himself a smoker, who last summer signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. One of the main pieces of the Act -- which at 161 pages comes in fairly short for legislation -- was to transfer regulative authority over tobacco to the Food and Drug Administration, and give the FDA discretion over the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. The President, who has been badgered by both the press and his own family about smoking, discussed the risks and costs of smoking, and his own habit, at the signing of the Act on June 22, 2009.

Whether or not President Obama still smokes, the FDA has taken its new charge seriously, and this past Friday unveiled a set of proposed imagery to be added to packages of cigarettes as more visually intrusive warning labels. Some of those labels have been reproduced below.

Will these labels be effective in discouraging tobacco use? Do the messages speak well to their intended audience? The longterm answers of the campiagn are unknown, but the evidence of smoking's -- and secondhand smoke's -- effect on individual health is irrefutable. Unless, of course, you work for a tobacco company. We do hope, however, that if you choose to smoke, you will choose not to smoke tomorrow.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this post is himself a former smoker, and now a frequent runner. His secret to quitting was to take more naps and to eat a lot of carrots. Good luck!

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