Obama has harsh words for big tobacco fighting new labeling requirement

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Thursday, November 17, 2011 | Katie Gibas | Categories:
The Thursday before Thanksgiving has become the annual Great American Smokeout, a day aimed at helping people quit smoking. As our Katie Gibas reports, President Barak Obama applauded the effort. He also scolded tobacco companies for fighting the Food and Drug Administration's new graphic labeling on cigarette packaging. UNITED STATES -- In his last medical check-up October 31st, President Barak Obama was pronounced tobacco-free. "Quitting smoking is hard, believe me I know. But we can make it easier. The best way to prevent the health problems that come with smoking, is to keep young people from starting in the first place," said President Obama. One of the ways the Food and Drug Administration is trying to prevent youngsters from smoking and encouraging current users to quit is with graphic labels on cigarette packaging, showing the dangers of the habit. When the FDA approved the labeling in June, the rule would have required the images to cover the top half of cigarette packs. "It's been show that a larger and more graphic image will stick longer. People eventually become immune to the message, but a larger and more graphic image, people don't become immune as soon," said Dr. Leslie Kohman, the Upstate Cancer Center Medical Director. Last week, the tobacco companies won an injunction against the labels, claiming a violation of their free speech rights. “Rather than inform and educate, the graphic warnings include non-factual cartoon images and controversial photographs that have been technologically manipulated to maximize an emotional response from viewers, essentially turning our cigarette packs into mini-billboards for the Government’s anti-smoking message,” said Bryan Hatchell, a spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. President Obama had some harsh words for tobacco companies fighting the labeling in his address applauding the efforts of the Great American Smokeout Day. "Some big tobacco companies are trying to block these labels because they don't want to be honest about the consequences about using their products," President Obama. R.J. Reynolds had no comment on the president's statement. But anti-smoking advocates praised the message. "Since it is the single largest cause of medical cost, death and disability in this country, to reduce the smoking rate by even a few percent would make our health care system vastly more effective and affordable," said Kohman. A number of countries already have the graphic labeling, and anti-smoking advocates hope the FDA will win an appeal to implement the labels in the U.S.
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