Graphic Warning Labels Are Constitutional
Statement from Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled today in a tobacco industry challenge to the constitutionality of numerous provisions in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. In today’s groundbreaking decision, the court upheld the constitutionality of one of the most high-profile provisions of the Act, graphic warning labels that would cover half of cigarette packages on both the front and rear panels in order to communicate the deadly effects of tobacco. A challenge to the specific graphic warnings ordered by the FDA is pending on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit where it will be argued next month.
It is crucial that consumers understand the risks that come with smoking. Research conducted in countries that have already implemented graphic warnings, such as Canada and Australia, found that many smokers credit the warnings with motivating them to quit and/or helping them stay smoke-free. Placing prominent color photos and warning statements will hopefully help young smokers make more informed decisions about lighting up, and give current smokers a renewed commitment to quit their addiction for good.
Passed by Congress in 2009, this historic Act gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products – the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 400,000 Americans die each year as a result of tobacco-related diseases, which include heart disease, cancers, emphysema and stroke. In addition, an estimated 8.6 million Americans suffer from tobacco-related disease. However since the Act’s implementation, Big Tobacco has been fighting several of its provisions, which are meant to protect the American public.
The court also rejected most of the other challenges brought by Lorillard Tobacco Company, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and several other small tobacco companies. It upheld the constitutionality of provisions regulating modified risk products, bans on free tobacco samples, and the distribution of branded non-tobacco products and event sponsorships. The Sixth Circuit also found constitutional the Act’s provision that would preclude industry claims that a product is safe or less harmful as a result of FDA regulation. The only significant provision found to be unconstitutional was the so-called “tombstone” ad requirements which would have prohibited the use of color or graphics in tobacco product labeling and advertising.
The bottom line is this: this decision stands as an important step forward in the effort to protect Americans from the deadly ravages of tobacco. But the fight is not over. The tobacco industry has billions of dollars to spend on marketing their products and we fully expect that it will continue to go to court to protect these practices. Nonetheless, those of us in public health remain committed to the proposition that the tobacco epidemic is a winnable war and we will not stop until it is won.
Legacy helps people live longer, healthier lives by building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Legacy’s proven-effective and nationally recognized public education programs include truth®, the national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing 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. Located in Washington, D.C., the 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. To learn more about Legacy’s life-saving programs, visit www.LegacyForHealth.org.
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