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Tobacco Companies Seek to Avoid Telling Deadly Truth About Smoking by Filing Lawsuit to Stop New Warning Labels

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
August 17, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC (August 17, 2011) — The tobacco companies' lawsuit to stop the FDA's implementation of new, graphic cigarette warning labels continues their long history of being wrong on the law and wrong on the science. There is overwhelming scientific evidence about the need for these warnings and their effectiveness. These warnings were mandated by a large bipartisan majority of Congress. The tobacco industry argument challenging the requirement that cigarette packs must carry large graphic warnings has previously been rejected by a federal judge in Kentucky, who found the warning label requirement to be consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution and strongly supported by scientific evidence.

This is a tobacco industry effort to forum shop for a judge who will rule in their favor. The industry continues to fight all efforts to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco, which is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.

It is obvious why tobacco companies are filing this suit. They know what studies around the world have repeatedly shown - large, graphic warnings likes the ones the FDA is implementing are most effective at informing consumers about the health risks of smoking, discouraging children and other nonsmokers from starting to smoke, and motivating smokers to quit (see our fact sheet summarizing the evidence).

The tobacco companies continue to spend billions of dollars to play down the health risks of smoking and glamorize tobacco use. These new warnings will tell the truth about how deadly and unglamorous cigarette smoking truly is. Research has found that pack-a-day smokers could be exposed to cigarette health warnings more than 7,000 times per year. The new warnings provide a powerful incentive for smokers to take the life-saving step of quitting and for kids never to try that first cigarette.

The new warnings are required by the bipartisan law enacted by Congress in 2009 granting the FDA authority over tobacco products and will be required on cigarette packs starting in September 2012. As required by Congress, the new warnings cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of cigarette advertisements, and they must contain color graphics depicting the negative health consequences of smoking. The FDA has authority to periodically revise the warnings to keep them fresh and effective based on the latest science.

Like the rest of the law, the new warnings are carefully crafted to be consistent with the First Amendment, strongly supported by the science and serve the compelling goal of reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use, which kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in health care expenditures each year.

Congress approved the 2009 law with broad, bipartisan support. Its sponsors included U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Todd Platts (R-PA), and former U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT). U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) championed the requirement for large, graphic cigarette warnings. The FDA selected nine final warnings from 36 proposed in November after careful scientific review, extensive public input and an 18,000-person study to assess the impact of the proposed warnings on various age groups.