April 05, 2012
Kenneth Spaeth, MD
Director, Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center
Pat Folan, RN
Director, Center for Tobacco Control
Tobacco companies must display the concentration of 20 cancer-causing chemicals in cigarettes on warning labels beginning this June, according to a new requirement enacted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the agency’s latest step to make the toxicity of cigarettes more transparent.
While there are more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarettes, 93 of them are proven to be harmful. However, the FDA selected 20 to display because of ease of testing, which ensures compliance. The 20 cigarette chemicals include such well-studied, recognized carcinogens as toluene, formaldehyde and benzene.
Just as nutritional labels on foods list such elements as calories, sodium and fats to help consumers make better-informed, healthier choices, the hope is that displaying the types and amounts of these chemicals on cigarette warning labels will add to the myriad motivators to inspire smokers to quit.
The FDA will also require tighter restrictions on tobacco company claims that characterize some tobacco products as “less risky” to health, including snuff and electronic cigarettes, which have been more heavily marketed in recent years.
Despite great success in the struggle against this scourge, smoking contributes roughly 20 percent of all deaths each year in the United States (more than HIV, drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents, suicides and murders combined) at a cost of about nearly $200 billion. So the more we do to help people quit or never start using tobacco, the better off everyone will all be.
The North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control offers quit-smoking help. Call us at 516-466-1980.