U.S. Appeals Court Ruling Another Major Setback for Much Needed Graphic Warning Labels for Tobacco Products
Statement from Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy
WASHINGTON, Feb. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As anticipated, Judge Richard Leon of the DC District Court ruled this afternoon that the Food and Drug Administration’s required graphic warning labels violate the First Amendment rights of the tobacco companies, constituting “compelled speech.” Siding with Big Tobacco, Leon ruled the images were “neither factual nor accurate.” The bizarre finding contradicts what we have known for decades – that between one-half and one-third of those who continue to smoke will ultimately die from it.
Today’s ruling marks the second time Judge Leon has ruled in favor of Big Tobacco.
Judge Leon’s first decision, which granted the tobacco companies’ motion for a preliminary injunction stopping the implementation of the regulation – has already been appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for DC, and is scheduled for oral argument on April 10. This latest decision constitutes the “final” decision of the lower court and is yet another setback for public health.
With 1,200 Americans losing their lives to tobacco- related diseases each year, every day we spend not visually portraying the hard truth about smoking to the public is a lethal opportunity loss. Legacy believes that these images are exactly the kinds of public health messaging that should be shown to smokers to motivate them to conquer their nicotine addictions and keep young people from ever starting to smoke in the first place.
Evidence shows that more extensive, visual graphic warning labels such as those required by the FDA can play an important role in educating consumers about the dangers of smoking. Research conducted in countries that have implemented graphic warnings, such as Canada and Australia, has found that many smokers credit the warnings with motivating them to quit and/or helping them to stay smoke-free. The new labels will be enhanced by the FDA’s decision to include the 1-800 QUIT-NOW number on the labels – a national, toll-free telephonic smoking cessation resource that smokers can use to help them quit.
We urge the Federal Government to appeal today’s ruling and continue to press its case for the effective role graphic warning labels can play as part of a comprehensive tobacco education program. It’s a matter of our nation’s collective public health and public interest.
Legacy is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation’s programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit http://www.legacyforhealth.org/.