Groups sue FDA for graphic warning labels on cigarettes

Groups sue FDA for graphic warning labels on cigarettes
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Eight public health and medical groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to force the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a final rule requiring graphic warnings on cigarette packs and in tobacco ads.

The groups argue in their suit that the FDA is violating the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the agency until June 22, 2011 to issue a final rule on graphic warning labels. The labels are supposed to cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of cigarette advertising. 

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The FDA had created the warnings, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit later struck them down for violating the First Amendment. 

Since the ruling only applied to the specific images proposed and not the law’s underlying requirement, the groups argue the FDA should have drafted a new rule.

“The FDA has been in violation of the 2009 law for more than four years,” the groups said in court documents filed in a federal district court in Boston.

“During that time, over three million Americans, the vast majority of them minors, have begun to smoke on a regular basis. Half of them will die prematurely as a result of tobacco-related disease.”

The groups are asking the court to force FDA to issue a rule.

The lawsuit is backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, among others. 

The agency has been hammered with legal challenges challenges since finalizing it's first-ever regulations for cigars and electronic-cigarettes in May.

In one suit, the American Vaping Association argues the rule violates the First Amendment because it bans companies from passing out free samples, which it claims is a protected form of non-misleading speech.

In another case, Altria is fighting back against the rule’s ban on the use of words like “low,” “light” or “mild” on product labels for both cigars and e-cigarettes.