The Food and Drug Administration lit a flame under the tobacco industry on Thursday with nearly 500 pages of new regulations. Electronic cigarettes, formerly free from much federal oversight, will soon be tightly regulated. Cigar makers will take a hit as well.
Here are five other ways that public health organizations around the world are trying to curb smoking.
Jack up the prices
Australia recently announced a dramatic increase on the price of cigarettes — from about $20 per pack to as much as $45 by 2020. This will be accomplished by annual 12.5 percent hikes in the tobacco excise tax.
Price hikes in other countries have succeeded in cutting demand. In Turkey, for instance, cigarette prices jumped more than 40 percent from 2008 to 2012. During that time, the smoking rate dropped by nearly 15 percent, according to a paper published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In higher-income countries, the rule of thumb is that a 10 percent price increase will reduce demand for cigarettes by about 4 percent.
Plaster boxes with graphic warnings
Australia is well-known for the disturbing images on its cigarette packs: here’s a foot with gangrene, and here’s a cancerous mouth. Canada has similar graphic warning labels. Researchers have linked the graphic labels in Australia to a decrease in tobacco consumption, though the industry disagrees.
The FDA made moves to introduce similar packaging in the United States, but was stymied by an industry lawsuit. A 2014 study of the Canadian program projected that adopting similar labels in the US could have decreased the number of adult smokers by 5 to 9 million.
Encourage e-cigarette use
There’s a lively debate about just how dangerous e-cigs are, but most experts agree they’re not as bad as traditional cigarettes, because they deliver fewer toxins. In fact, the Royal College of Physicians just last month declared that e-cigarettes “are likely to be beneficial to UK public health.” The group, a leading voice for doctors in England, called for a campaign to urge smokers to switch to vaping.
But there’s also great concern that promoting e-cigs could prompt more teenagers to pick up the habit and perhaps then to move on to traditional cigarettes.
Crack down on tobacco advertising
China, where about half of adult males smoke, recently banned many forms of tobacco advertising, a move praised by the World Health Organization. Similar advertising restrictions have been in place in the United States since the late 1990s.
Researchers have found that comprehensive ad bans are effective at reducing smoking.
Bring out Michael Bloomberg
In addition to banning cigarettes and e-cigarettes in many public places when he was mayor of New York City, Bloomberg has bankrolled anti-smoking efforts around the world, including a big effort to push for bans on outdoor tobacco advertising in Indonesia. Bloomberg Philanthropies is behind the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, which is focusing on 14 countries.