Govt Puts Warning Labels On Cigars
WASHINGTON (AP) - The government ordered tough new health warnings on cigar packages Monday, requiring manufacturers to prominently display messages warning of health risks and the effects of second-hand smoke - a first for a tobacco product.
Virtually every cigar package, box and advertisement will have the warnings as a result of a settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and seven companies that make the bulk of the cigars sold in the United States. The warnings were prompted by concerns about a surge in cigar smoking among Americans, especially young people, who may mistakenly believe that cigars are not as harmful as cigarettes.
``The message is that cigar smoking is not a harmless alternative to cigarette smoking,'' said FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky. ``It carries its own risks.''
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Most cigar boxes already include a label required under a settlement of a California court case, which says the product ``contains/produces chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.''
The new warnings list more health risks and will be somewhat larger and more prominently displayed than warnings on cigarette packages. The requirement goes in effect seven months from now.
The labels say cigars can cause cancer ``even if you do not inhale'' and warn users that tobacco smoke increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease ``even in nonsmokers.'' This is the first time any tobacco packaging has warned of the dangers of inhaling second-hand smoke.
Some 60,000 Americans a year die from the effects of breathing other people's smoke, said U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.
``In contrast to the now outdated warnings displayed on cigarettes and spit tobacco labels, the new cigar warnings represent a significant advance in the conspicuousness and scientific currency of tobacco warning messages,'' said Satcher.
Anti-smoking advocates applauded the new warnings and said cigarette packages should carry the same messages.
``This should serve as a catalyst for a similar warning for cigarettes,'' said Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The FTC and the surgeon general have recommended tougher and more prominent warnings on cigarettes, but the matter is up to Congress, said Pitofsky. Cigarettes have carried warning labels since 1966. The labels were last updated in 1984.
Cigar sales have jumped from about 3.4 billion in 1993 to about 6 billion last year, according to the Cigar Association of American Inc., a trade organization. Cigar smoking was a fad in the mid 1990s, when sales of premium, hand-rolled cigars soared, cigar bars catered to the young and trendy and an increasing number of women took up the habit. Since then, the craze has faded, but health officials say reports show widespread cigar smoking among teen-agers.
A report last year from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that two-thirds of teens surveyed had smoked a cigar in the past year and one-third had smoke one in the last 30 days.
The cigar companies agreed to the new labeling requirements to settle FTC allegations that their failure to disclose the health risks of cigars was deceptive and unfair.
Cigar makers say they oppose the warnings but said a federal standard would be easier to deal with than adhering to different state rules.
``While we don't agree with the content or the language of any of the labels, it's a better way for us to do business,'' said Joe Augustus, senior vice president of Florida cigar company Swisher International Inc.
Five warning labels will be used in rotation and must be displayed prominently on the packages or boxes that cigars typically come in:
- Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the mouth and throat, even if you do not inhale
- Cigar smoking can cause lung cancer and heart disease
- Tobacco use increases the risk of infertility, stillbirth and low birth weight
- Cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes
- Tobacco smoke increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease, even in nonsmokers