Tobacco packaging and labeling policies under the U.S. Tobacco Control Act: research needs and priorities

Nicotine Tob Res. 2012 Jan;14(1):62-74. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntr182. Epub 2011 Oct 29.


Introduction: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (the "Act"), enacted in June 2009, gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. The current paper reviews the provisions for packaging and labeling, including the existing evidence and research priorities.

Methods: Narrative review using electronic literature search of published and unpublished sources in 3 primary areas: health warnings, constituent labeling, and prohibitions on the promotional elements of packaging.

Results: The Act requires 9 pictorial health warnings covering half of cigarette packages and 4 text warnings covering 30% of smokeless tobacco packages. The Act also prohibits potentially misleading information on packaging, including the terms "light" and "mild," and provides a mandate to require disclosure of chemical constituents on packages. Many of the specific regulatory provisions are based on the extent to which they promote "greater public understanding of the risks of tobacco." As a result, research on consumer perceptions has the potential to shape the design and renewal of health warnings and to determine what, if any, information on product constituents should appear on packages. Research on consumer perceptions of existing and novel tobacco products will also be critical to help identify potentially misleading information that should be restricted under the Act.

Conclusion: Packaging and labeling regulations required under the Act will bring the United States in line with international standards. There is an immediate need for research to evaluate these measures to guide future regulatory action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Health Information
  • Disclosure / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Disclosure / standards
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Government Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Product Packaging / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Product Packaging / standards
  • Research
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Tobacco Industry / economics
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tobacco*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration