Tobacco Companies’ Lawsuits to Block… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Tobacco Companies’ Lawsuits to Block New Cigarette Warnings Continue their Long History of Denying the Truth to the Public

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 06, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Philip Morris USA today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the new graphic cigarette warnings recently finalized by the FDA. It follows a similar lawsuit filed last month by R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Also today, the plaintiffs and the government jointly proposed a briefing schedule in the Texas case and proposed to delay the implementation date for the graphic warnings for four months, from June 18, 2021, to October 16, 2021.  There is no justification for the delay, and we urge the court to reject this and any other effort by the industry to delay the current implementation deadline.

These tobacco industry lawsuits continue their long history of trying to keep the public from knowing the truth about the deadly consequences of smoking. It is truly shameless for tobacco companies to file these lawsuits at a time when there is clear evidence that smoking can increase risk of severe complications and even death from COVID-19. Never has it been more important for cigarette packs and ads to feature health warnings that effectively communicate the full range of diseases caused by smoking, including lung and heart diseases and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for COVID-19.

It has been more than a decade since Congress required that cigarette packs and ads carry graphic warnings after finding that the current text warnings were completely ineffective. This requirement was supported by a large, bipartisan majority in Congress as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Eleven years later, the tobacco industry has succeeded in preventing any change.

These lawsuits show once again that tobacco companies always put profit over health and lives and cannot be taken seriously when they claim they want to reduce the enormous harm their products cause. They are fighting the new warnings precisely because they are aware of the extensive scientific evidence that graphic warnings are most effective at increasing public understanding of the many health risks of smoking.

The industry’s previous legal challenges to graphic cigarette warnings resulted in two separate appellate court decisions in 2012. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Congress’ decision to require graphic cigarette warnings, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the specific warnings initially proposed by the FDA. The new graphic warnings adopted last month by the FDA, after lengthy consideration and opportunity for substantial public comment, closely follow the guidelines articulated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2012. As the FDA demonstrated in its final rule earlier this year, the new warnings stand on firm scientific and legal ground.

We urge the Administration to vigorously defend these warnings in court and urge the court to reject the proposed four-month delay. Even with the pending lawsuits, the industry has more than ample time to comply with the deadline set by the FDA.

For more information, view the March 17, 2020, statement the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health and medical organizations issued in support of the new graphic warnings.