A U.S. District judge dealt a major setback to tobacco control efforts on Monday by blocking a measure that would require tobacco companies to include large, graphic warning labels on the front of their cigarette packs. This provision was included in federal legislation enacted in 2009 to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of cigarettes.
Intended to warn the public – and in particular youth – about the life-threatening hazards of smoking, the labels emblazoned on the front half of the packs would disclose the poisonous ingredients found in cigarettes and be accompanied by graphic images such as a diseased pair of lungs and rotten teeth due to smoking. Current cigarette warning labels haven’t been updated for 25 years.
In his ruling, Federal Judge Richard Leon said that the labeling requirement compromises the tobacco industry’s First Amendment rights. For the full ruling, go here.
Monday’s news comes as a huge disappointment for tobacco control advocates working closely to ensure the law is fully and effectively implemented.
“Given the overwhelming evidence of the need for these warnings and the tobacco industry’s own admission of the factual accuracy of the warning statements, we are confident that this decision will not be the last word on the new warnings, said Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Tobacco use remains public health enemy number one, responsible for more than 443,000 deaths every year.