alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

Change at the federal level takes time and perseverance. Thanks to great effort from the smoking cessation community—including ONS—the federal government is updating package and advertising warning for tobacco products for the first time since 1984. Advocates have been calling on agencies to exercise authority over tobacco products along with their marketing and distribution, and on March 17, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule requiring new health warning labels for cigarette packages and advertisements.

The new requirements begin June 2021 and will change approximately 20%–50% of the printed packaging. According to FDA, new language could include:

  • 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.

“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,” Mitch Zeller, JD, FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products director, 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.”

Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer and is linked to approximately 80% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. Smoking cessation is cancer prevention, and oncology nurses are integral to the conversation. Promote healthy habits in your patients, family members, and communities by championing cancer prevention and smoking cessation.

ONS advocates are fighting against smoking—including the rising tide of youth vaping—and working with FDA to provide education, guidance, and the nursing perspective. Join the Capitol Hill Gang to add oncology nursing’s voice to the conversation.