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New Cigarette Warnings to Highlight Cataract Risk

Labels will depict ‘a man age 65 years or older with a clouded lens.’

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Cataracts are among the health risks that will be highlighted on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements.

The new warnings feature text statements with “photo-realistic color images,” according to a press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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The American Optometric Association notes that in the case of cataracts, the label will state: “WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.” It will depict “a man age 65 years or older with a clouded lens.” The AOA had advocated for inclusion of cataracts on the new warning labels.

“The 11 finalized cigarette health warnings represent the most significant change to cigarette labels in more than 35 years and will considerably increase public awareness of lesser-known, but serious negative health consequences of cigarette smoking,” said Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Beginning June 18, 2021, the new warnings will be required to appear prominently on cigarette packages and in ads, occupying the top 50% of the area of the front and rear panels of cigarette packages and at least 20% of the area at the top of cigarette advertisements.

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These are the text statements:

  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.
  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes head and neck cancer.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes bladder cancer, which can lead to bloody urine.
  • WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth.
  • WARNING: Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes COPD, a lung disease that can be fatal.
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, which raises blood sugar.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.

The warnings must be randomly and equally displayed and distributed on cigarette packages and rotated quarterly in cigarette advertisements.

“Research shows that the current warnings on cigarettes, which have not changed since 1984, have become virtually invisible to both smokers and nonsmokers, in part because of their small size, location and lack of an image,” Zeller said. “Additionally, research shows substantial gaps remain in the public’s knowledge of the harms of cigarette smoking, and smokers have misinformation about cigarettes and their negative health effects. The new cigarette health warnings complement other critical FDA actions, including outreach campaigns targeted to both adults and youth, to educate the public about the dangers associated with using cigarettes, as well as other tobacco products.”

AOA President Barbara L. Horn said, “We applaud FDA’s efforts to reduce the number of people who are visually impaired due to their lack of education surrounding the less-known adverse effects of smoking. AOA and its members stand ready to support this rule in any way we can and will remain actively involved in ensuring patient education and understanding of these important health issues.”

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