Search for a Safe Cigarette

Student Handout


Who Should Decide What's Safe? Part I

Some tobacco companies are working to develop a cigarette they say will be safer than products currently on the market. But who decides what's safe? Enacted in 1965, landmark federal legislation required health warnings on cigarette packages. In 1984, the law was amended to require one of the four warning labels below in most cigarette-related advertising. Read the federal laws regarding cigarette package labeling and advertisements and then decide what role you think the government should play in public health concerns.

U.S. Code

Title 15—Commerce and Trade
Chapter 36—Cigarette Labeling and Advertising
Sec. 1333.
Labeling; requirements; conspicuous statement

Required warnings; packages; advertisements

It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, package, or import for sale or distribution within the United States any cigarettes the package of which fails to bear, in accordance with the requirements of this section, one of the following labels: (see below)

It shall be unlawful for any manufacturer or importer of cigarettes to advertise or cause to be advertised (other than through the use of outdoor billboards) within the United States any cigarette unless the advertising bears, in accordance with the requirements of this section, one of the following labels:

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy.

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, and Low Birth Weight.

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.


Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

  1. What impact do you think these warnings have had on the smoking population? Defend your reasoning.

  2. Evaluate each warning. What message does each warning convey?

  3. Would different language create more of an effect? If so, what?

  4. Is it enough to warn consumers that a product is dangerous or should its availability be controlled? Explain your answer.