Statement from Richard Besser, MD, on Graphic Health Warnings for Cigarette Packages and Advertisements Proposed Rule

    • August 19, 2019

The following statement from President and CEO Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is in response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposed rule to establish new required cigarette health warnings depicting negative health consequences of smoking.

On August 15th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed large graphic health warnings that would be placed on cigarette packages and cigarette advertising in the United States. We welcome this critical action by the FDA to reduce the toll of smoking, which remains the leading cause of preventable death in this country and contributes to significant disparities in morbidity and mortality by race and by income. 

This is a long overdue action that was initially authorized by the bipartisan 2009 Tobacco Control Act. 

We urge the FDA to issue its final rule in a timely manner and call on the tobacco industry to not stand in the way of this life-saving action. Robust scientific research demonstrates that graphic health warnings can decrease smoking initiation and promote cessation, and more than 120 countries have already adopted this evidence-based strategy. 

Our Foundation will closely review the proposed warnings and will consider submitting formal regulatory comments to the FDA.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937