On September 22, 2012, all cigarette packaging and advertising must display one of the FDAs 9 pre-approved graphic and text health warnings.
These labels are designed to discourage youths from smoking and to provide greater appeal for quitting to current smokers.
However, on September 21, 2011 a hearing was held in U.S. Federal District Court regarding the constitutionality of these warnings.
Big Tobacco Files Lawsuit
Five major tobacco manufacturers filed a lawsuit against the FDA on August 16, 2011 in hopes of achieving an injunction against the mandatory implementation of graphic and text warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements.
The tobacco manufacturing companies involved with this lawsuit are:
- R.J. Reynolds
- Lorillard Tobacco Co.
- Commonwealth Brands Inc.
- Ligget Group LLC
- Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc.
The tobacco companies’ lawsuit against the FDA was filed on the grounds that the mandatory text and graphic warnings infringed on the constitutional free speech of the tobacco manufacturers. They have asked that the FDAs mandatory implementation be dismissed, and that a new set of warnings that do not threaten their constitutional right be developed. Following this, a new fifteen month waiting period will be set before the new warnings become effective.
The FDA Taken to Court . . . Again
In August 2009, a similar lawsuit was filed on behalf of Discount Tobacco City & Lottery Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Conwood Co. LLC, Commonwealth Brands Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Co., and National Tobacco Co. The purpose was to have it declared the FDAs proposed graphic and text warnings were unconstitutional.
The judge dismissed the suit, and an appeal was filed. A decision is still pending from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on this case.
Tobacco Manufacturers Argue Warnings Are Unconstitutional
What’s at issue with the tobacco manufacturers is whether or not the FDAs nine warnings portray actual health risks as a result from smoking, or whether or not they stem more from an advocacy perspective.
Tobacco use accounts for more than one in five deaths. Smoking remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America.
Judge Richard Leon’s decision on the injunction is expected by the end of October.