One of the FDA’s new warning labels
Several of the nation’s largest tobacco companies are suing the federal government alleging that graphic warning labels on cigarette ads and packaging, planned to take effect a year from now, are unconstitutional. Claiming their First Amendment rights are being infringed, the companies say the required labeling amounts to “screaming” at potential buyers not to purchase their product, which is itself lawful to produce and sell. The lead lawyer for the tobacco companies calls the new warnings “direct advocacy to not buy the product, as opposed to a straightforward warning.” The companies may seek an injunction against the implementation of the new regulations.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Health and Human Services Department and the officials who head them are the specific targets of the lawsuit. These are the primary government agencies that deal with public health. The FDA announced in June 2011 that new warning labels with graphic photos and the phone number 1-800-QUIT-NOW would have to cover half of each cigarette pack. Warnings first appeared on cigarette packs in 1965 but have not undergone changes in 25 years.
Although the FDA has not issued any comment on the lawsuit, its official Web site notes that “tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States” and is responsible for nearly 500,000 deaths yearly from lung disease, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. The agency believes the new warnings are a major step forward in communicating the dangers of tobacco use and expects them to not only decrease the number of smokers, but save lives, increase life expectancy, and reduce health care costs. In particular, the FDA hopes that the gross images will persuade impressionable children and youth not to smoke.
Image credit: © U.S. HHS
- Tobacco Giants Suing FDA over Warning Labels Mandate
Learn about the context of the lawsuit involving free speech rights and the graphic new warning labels on cigarette packs.
(Source: CNN, August 17, 2011)
- Big Tobacco Gets Top First Amendment Lawyer for New Suit
Read what Big Tobacco’s to lawyer has to say about the lawsuit against the government-mandated warning labels.
(Source: Adweek, August 18, 2011)
- New Cigarette Warning Labels Pack More Visual Punch
Learn how the planned graphic anti-tobacco warning labels were chosen and how they are intended to work.
(Source: PBS, June 11, 2011)
- Freakonomics Poll: Will New Cigarette Warning Labels Reduce Smoking?
Read how such regulatory efforts are likely to impact smoking.
(Source: freakonomics.com, August 16, 2011)
- Cigarette Health Warnings
Read about the FDA’s new warning labels on its official website.
(Source: Food and Drug Administration)