OPINIONTobacco

Lawsuit Filed to Halt New FDA Warning Labels

Tobacco companies, retailers seek to invalidate packaging requirements
Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

LAKEVILLE, Minn. — On April 3, 2020, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., ITG Brands, Liggett Group and five tobacco retailers filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The lawsuit seeks to invalidate both the FDA’s recently issued rule for new text and graphic cigarette health warnings as well as the congressionally mandated requirement under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act directing the FDA to issue these cigarette health warnings.

On March 17, 2020, the FDA issued a rule requiring new health warnings on cigarette packages, cigarette cartons and cigarette advertisements. These new cigarette health warnings consist of 11 text warning statements accompanied by a photo-realistic graphic color image.

The lawsuit filed against the FDA has seven different claims, including the following key claims:

  1. The new rule requiring 11 different text/graphic cigarette health warnings to appear on cigarette packages, cigarette cartons and cigarette advertisements violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  2. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act’s requirement that the FDA issue a rule requiring text and graphic cigarette health warnings violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  3. The FDA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in drafting and issuing the rule/regulation.

Request for Relief

Based on the numerous claims in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are asking the federal district court for the following relief:

  1. Declare that the new rule violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and invalidate the rule in its entirety.
  2. Declare that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act’s requirement that the FDA issue graphic cigarette health warnings violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  3. Enter a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the FDA from enforcing both the new rule and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act’s requirement that the FDA issue graphic cigarette health warnings.

Thomas Briant is the executive director of NATO, a tobacco retailing association based in Lakeville, Minn. Reach him at info@natocentral.org.

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