Five of the largest tobacco companies, including the makers of Newport, Camel, and Winston, are suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, arguing that the new graphic warning labels required on cigarette packages are unconstitutional.
The five tobacco giants filed the suit this week because if the FDA gets its way, every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States will carry one of nine graphic, full-color, gross warnings reminding people of just how horrible smoking is for their health.
As it stands now, beginning September 2012, the FDA will require larger, more prominent cigarette health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States.
FDA officials say the new graphics mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are a significant advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking.
Nine different text warnings with accompanying color graphics will be placed on the top 50 percent of both the front and rear panels of each cigarette package.
Some of the photos portray graphic details of a sewn-up corpse, rotting teeth, a baby being held near smoke, a healthy lung beside a lung with black tar inside, and other emotionally driven images.
Court documents say, "Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products," a federal official told The Christian Post.
The FDA told The Christian Post they could not comment on the pending case because the agency does not discuss matters of litigation prior to a court decision.
Lorillard, Inc., the third largest manufacturer in the United States, along with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands, Inc., Liggett Group LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco have filed suit against the FDA, chief Margaret Hamburg, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to a statement by Lorillard.
Altria, one of the biggest U.S. tobacco companies, was not part of the lawsuit.
The companies, led by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., say they want a judge to stop the labels because the proposed warnings do not convey the facts about smoking in a simple or appropriate manner.
The suit seeks a preliminary injunction to delay the effective date of the new regulations, which are proposed to change on September 22, 2012.
Some of the warnings also include: “Tobacco smoke can harm your children;” “Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease;” “Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby;” and “Cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease.”
The warnings must be randomly displayed on the packages equally, within a 12-month period.
There must also be a reference to the tobacco cessation resource, 1-800-QUIT-NOW under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Companies that do not comply with the new proposed rules will be given penalties including seizure, injunction or no tobacco sale orders.
But major tobacco industries are saying the new regulations are infringing on their rights.
“The regulations violate the First Amendment,” Floyd Abrams, the representative lawyer for Lorillard, said in a statement.
“The notion that the government can require those who manufacture a lawful product to emblazon half of its package with pictures and words admittedly drafted to persuade the public not to purchase that product cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”
Abrams added, “The government can engage in as much anti-smoking advocacy as it chooses in whatever language and with whatever pictures it chooses; it cannot force those who lawfully sell tobacco to the public to carry that message, those words, and those pictures.”
The companies were hoping to come to an agreement before the warning labels went into effect next year in order to avoid “funds that would need to be expended changing current warnings,” said the New York-based lawyer to CNN.
While many of the tobacco manufacturers opposed the new branding of their cigarette packages, public health officials and prevention centers applauded the new efforts by the federal government to stop smoking.
Dr. Donald E. Williamson, the state health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, told The Christian Post that the FDA is headed in the right direction with the new graphic labels, helping people better understand the real health consequences of tobacco consumption.
“From a public health perspective, I certainly think that the warnings will reduce tobacco consumption.”
“I would say they are a step in the right direction, [though] not sufficient,” Williamson added. “Reducing tobacco consumption is a critical part of the struggles of improving health to the extent that those warning labels will prevent one person from starting to smoke.”
The FDA estimates in its Analysis of Impacts that the regulation would reduce the number of smokers in 2013 by 213,000 people, with smaller reductions through 2031.
They also revealed that 1,749 to 5,802 quality-adjusted life years will be saved annually and that 16,544 to 19,687 people will be prevented from smoking every year.
Labeled as the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA hopes to significantly lower the number of deaths and illnesses recorded each year because of tobacco use through their new regulations.
Research cited by the CDC has proven that laws and policies directed toward curbing tobacco use, like restricting smoking-areas and increasing the price of tobacco products, has caused immediate health benefits as well.
Looking to save more than 400,000 people a year who die prematurely due to smoking or secondhand smoke, as well as the 8.6 million people who are diagnosed with serious illnesses due to tobacco, the federal government is taking a big step in combating the multi-billion dollar industry claiming the lives of many.
For information about the new FDA regulations visit http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/default.htm.