Warning: Smoking Causes Impotence

Graphic cigarette warnings

And a whole lot of other undesirable results.

The World Health Organization (WHO) directs, in Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, that parties to the convention “implement large, rotating health warnings on all tobacco product packaging and labelling.”

The WHO website shows twenty countries (and their mandated warnings) currently participating, including Brazil, which is where the Florida International University law student who gave me this pack of Marlboros purchased it.

Some of the warnings are much more graphic.  Speaking of warnings, here is fair warning: DO NOT LOOK at this larynx warning from Malaysia unless you have a strong stomach.

Other countries mandate pictorial warnings without belonging to the WHO convention.  In the United States, graphic pictorial warnings on cigarette packages were torpedoed by a lawsuit in which the tobacco industry successfully argued before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. FDA that requiring them to put pictorial warnings on “the top 50 percent of the front and rear panels of cigarette packages and 20 percent of the area of each cigarette advertisement” violated their First Amendment rights.

The warnings were authorized by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 1989, which directed the U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services to adopt regulations requiring cigarettes to bear “color graphics depicting the negative health consequences of smoking.”

The Obama Administration backed away from the requirements after the decision.

The data is mixed as to whether pictorial cigarette warnings change smoking behavior.  A study of 4000 smokers in Malaysia and Thailand found the warnings had an effect in Thailand, but not Malaysia.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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