AAFP Statement: New Warning Labels Help Show the Real Dangers of Smoking

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Statement attributable to:
Roland Goertz, MD, MBA
American Academy of Family Physicians

“The AAFP commends the Food and Drug Administration in developing strong new graphic warnings for cigarette packaging and advertisements that more fully depict the negative health consequences of smoking.

“These warnings mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are an important, yet overdue, advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking.

“It is longstanding AAFP policy to strongly oppose both the use of tobacco and all forms of advertisement of tobacco products.

“The AAFP therefore adamantly supports the required use of color graphic warnings and new textual warning statements on cigarette packages and advertisements as an important step toward reducing the existing and future use of tobacco products. While we advised FDA to make these warnings obligatory sooner than September 2012, we commend the agency for the commitment to making these warnings as compelling as possible.

“It’s no secret that cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and illness in the United States and that smoking is a known cause of cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nonetheless, an estimated 6,600 Americans become new smokers each day.

“Considerable evidence demonstrates that the current textual warnings are given little attention by viewers. More powerful statements, and the addition of graphics, will better communicate the many health risks attributable to cigarette smoking and will help to end tobacco use.

“The AAFP shares the FDA’s goal of stopping Americans from using cigarettes and other tobacco products in order to prevent the life-threatening health consequences associated with tobacco use. These new warnings represent a significant step toward that goal, and will reinforce family physicians’ efforts to educate their patients about the dangers of these products and help them in their attempts to quit.

“Of the 46 million current smokers in the United States, 70 percent say they would like to quit, and advice from a health care professional can more than double smoking success rates. Family physicians are committed to helping these smokers meet their goal. The AAFP supports that effort with its program, "Ask and Act," which encourages family physicians to ask all patients about tobacco use, then to act to help them quit.

“An even more effective means of reducing the public health risks posed by tobacco is preventing tobacco use. The AAFP is working to reduce tobacco use through Tar Wars, the only youth tobacco education program offered at this time by a medical specialty organization in the United States. Under the Tar Wars program, family physicians and other health care professionals discuss the dangers of tobacco use with approximately 400,000 fourth- and fifth-graders across the country each year.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Goertz, contact Jay Senter, 800-274-2237, Ext. 5221, or jsenter@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.  To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).