Court Rules FDA’s Graphic Cigarette Health Warnings Constitutional

The 3-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, New Orleans, decision reverses a lower court ruling
FDA image
Photograph courtesy of the FDA

A federal appeals court determined on Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation that requires graphic warning labels on cigarette packages and advertisements is constitutional.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, New Orleans, decision reverses a lower court ruling from the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas. The lower court issued a decision vacating the FDA’s graphic cigarette health warning regulations, saying they violated free speech protections under the First Amendment.

In 2020 the FDA issued a final rule to require new health warnings on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements, which include a set of 11 required warnings featuring textual statements with photo-realistic color images depicting some of the lesser-known, but serious health risks of cigarette smoking, including impact to fetal growth, cardiac disease, diabetes and more.The rule has been challenged by several lawsuits.

Shortly following the 2020 ruling, two lawsuits were filed against the FDA by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., ITG Brands LLC, Liggett Group LLC and several other companies, including retailers.  Winston-Salem, N.C.-based R.J. Reynolds, along with the other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit in Texas to invalidate the FDA’s rule.

The graphic health warnings are part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which was signed into on June 22, 2009, and gives FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products, according to the FDA website.

CSP Daily News reached out to R.J. Reynolds and the FDA for comment on last week’s ruling, but both declined.

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