BOSTON -- Eight public health and medical groups filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and advertising, according to one of the anti-smoking organizations.
Filed in a Boston federal court, the lawsuit seeks a final rule issued by the FDA requiring the warnings, referring back to the mandate of a 2009 federal law.
The groups filing the suit include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Truth Initiative and several individual pediatricians.
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act required graphic warnings covering the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20% of cigarette advertising and gave the FDA until June 22, 2011, to issue a final rule requiring such warnings, according to a press release from Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
While the FDA met that deadline, the specific graphic warnings required by the FDA were struck down in August 2012 by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which ruled 2-1 that the proposed warnings violated the First Amendment. The ruling only applied to the specific images proposed by the FDA and did not address the law’s underlying requirement, the release said.
Ruling in a separate case in March 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the law’s requirement for graphic warnings, finding that this provision did not violate the First Amendment. That court found the warnings “are reasonably related to the government’s interest in preventing consumer deception and are therefore constitutional.” The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a tobacco industry appeal of this ruling.
Taken together, these two federal court decisions mean the FDA is still legally obligated to require graphic health warnings and the agency is free to use different images than those struck down by the D.C. Circuit in 2012.
The FDA stated in March 2013 that it planned to issue a new rule requiring graphic warnings, but has yet to act, resulting in the lawsuit, according to the release. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.