TOBACCO: Cigars Will Soon Carry Health Warning Labels
The nation's largest cigar companies and federal regulators have agreed on health warning labels for cigar packaging and advertising, the Washington Post reports. "This is a significant advancement in our nation's continuing public health battle against tobacco," Surgeon General David Satcher said, adding that the warnings will close "a dangerous loophole." The absence of warnings gave the impression that cigars were a harmless alternative to cigarettes, Satcher explained, but he said studies have repeatedly shown that "there are no safe forms of tobacco." California already requires warning labels on cigars sold there, and Massachusetts has implemented a similar policy. This is the first time that federal authorities have pushed for labels on all cigars. The new labels, which will be bigger and bolder than those found on cigarette packages, will appear on the front of the package. Public health officials cited a 1998 report by the National Cancer Institute, which found that regular cigar smoking can cause cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus and lungs, depending on frequency of use. FTC Chair Robert Pitofsky argued that the agency can require labels because "sell[ing] a product where there is a serious health hazard and not disclos[ing] that fact is deceptive and unfair." Cigar companies disagree with the NCI study because it studied people who smoked cigars as often as someone would smoke cigarettes, while other studies show that more than 80% of cigar smokers smoke less than one a day. However, Joe Augustus, senior vice president of Swisher International Group Inc., the country's leading cigar seller, conceded that from a "commercial standpoint, it would be virtually impossible for us to comply with a multiple-warning regime adopted by different states and localities." He explained, "We felt it was the prudent thing [to agree] to have a uniform label throughout the country." According to Pitofsky, the new labels are expected to be in use within seven months. FTC officials said that they will now investigate pipe tobacco and may require labels for it as well (Mayer, 6/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.