Tomorrow, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act goes into effect, forcing the tobacco industry to stop branding cigarettes as “light,” “low,” and “mild”—decades after the descriptors were introduced by tobacco companies to imply they were safer alternatives to regular cigarettes. The act, signed into law by President Obama last year, gives the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new powers to regulate the tobacco industry.
Concerned that the tobacco industry is trying to circumvent the regulations with new marketing campaigns aimed at making consumers associate specific colors with the banned descriptors, as well as the false health claims linked to them, the American Lung Association is calling on the FDA to clamp down on tobacco companies.
“We want to make sure that the intent of the descriptor ban—stopping the companies from misleading consumers about the relative harm of tobacco products—is met,” said Jane Warner, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California. “We urge the FDA to take corrective action by ruling that this new wording and color coding should be ended immediately.”
In addition, new restrictions on the way the tobacco industry can advertise and sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and teenagers will take effect tomorrow. The Youth Access and Advertising rule, first issued by the FDA in 1996, will finally go into effect after years of court and legislative battles.
“This rule is an important step toward ending the predatory marketing campaigns by tobacco companies towards our children,” said Warner. “Each year, more than 32,000 kids in California will start smoking. Preventing youth smoking saves lives, since 90% of smokers began smoking by the age of 18.”
The implementation of this rule makes selling cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products to minors a federal offense. Vending machine sales or self-service displays of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco are banned except in adult-only facilities; and cigarettes can no longer be sold individually or in packs of fewer than 20. The rules also will prohibit tobacco companies from selling branded products, such as t-shirts and caps, and from sponsoring sporting and other cultural events.
Also taking effect is a provision that requires larger, stronger warning labels on all smokeless tobacco packages and in all smokeless tobacco product advertisements.