Saturday, August 25, 2012

Court Strikes Down Graphic Cigarette Warnings

WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that struck down the large, graphic cigarette warnings required by the landmark 2009 law giving the FDA authority over tobacco products.   The only other appellate court to consider the issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, upheld the graphic warnings requirement in March.  The split decisions make it likely the U.S. Supreme Court will settle the issue.

The Sixth Circuit found that the law's requirements for graphic warnings "are reasonably related to the government's interest in preventing consumer deception and are therefore constitutional."  That court found that the warnings "do not impose any restriction on Plaintiff's dissemination of speech, nor do they touch on Plaintiffs' core speech. Instead, the labels serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco."

In requiring the graphic warnings, anti-tobacco advocates say that Congress relied on an extensive scientific record demonstrating both the need for the new warnings and their effectiveness.  That record shows that the current, text-only warnings – which are printed on the side of cigarette packs and haven't been updated since 1984 – are stale and unnoticed.  Research has found that pack-a-day smokers could be exposed to cigarette health warnings more than 7,000 times per year. 

Studies around the world and evidence presented to the FDA also show that large, graphic warnings, like those adopted by the FDA, are most effective at informing consumers about the health risks of smoking, discouraging children and other nonsmokers from starting to smoke, and motivating smokers to quit.  Because of that evidence, at least 43 other countries now require large, graphic cigarette warnings.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids