Judge Blocks FDA’s Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels

By Maggie Fox

National Journal

A federal judge blocked a U.S. rule requiring tobacco companies to display graphic images on packs of cigarettes on Monday, saying cigarette companies were likely to win their argument that the law violates free speech rights, Reuters reported.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon sided with tobacco companies in their fight against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirement that cigarette packs carry the images, which include pictures of diseased mouths and a person smoking through a tracheostomy tube in the neck.

In June, FDA introduced nine new warning labels that would take up the top half of the front and back of the packs. Warning labels would also cover at least 20 percent of cigarette ads.

In August, four of the five largest tobacco companies filed suit, saying that the warning labels violate their right to free speech because the labels don’t allow people to make their own decisions on whether to smoke. The government anti-smoking labels are more prominent on the packages than the brand name, the companies argued.

“Today’s ruling by a federal judge blocking the implementation of new graphic cigarette warning labels is bad for public health. The ruling in a lawsuit the tobacco industry filed against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is a victory for Big Tobacco in its effort to delay the implementation of the new graphic warning labels,” Christopher Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society’s lobbying arm, the Cancer Action Network, said in a statement.

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