Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packs Face Ongoing Legal Challenge
By Sean Price

A court order – once again – has upheld enforcement of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) rule that cigarette packs must contain more colorful and graphic health warnings. The new deadline for implementing the rule, per the court order, is Oct. 6, 2023.   

In March 2020, FDA finalized the “Required Warnings for Cigarette Packages and Advertisements” rule. It created 11 new cigarette health warnings that consist of textual warning statements accompanied by color graphics – including photos that show the health consequences of cigarette smoking. Each cigarette pack must contain at least one of the new health warnings.   

The rule was supposed to go into effect June 18, 2021. But tobacco companies in April 2020 challenged its legality in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The court has since issued multiple orders postponing implementation of the rule while the legal challenge persists, and the ongoing fight could feasibly delay the Oct. 6, 2023, deadline yet again.   

“To me, the evidence that you need [that the warnings are effective] is that the tobacco industry is spending so much time fighting the implementation of this rule in court,” said Houston-area pediatrician Lindy Upton McGee, MD. She has testified on behalf of the Texas Medical Association on tobacco legislation and works on that topic with the Texas Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics.   

Delaying the rule, however, makes it harder to keep Texans from the well-known dangers of smoking, she warns.  

“The bottom line is that we’re not doing everything we can to discourage smoking,” Dr. McGee said. “And smoking remains one of the top causes of preventable deaths in Texas.”   

While graphic warning labels decrease positive perceptions of cigarettes, they don’t necessarily keep smokers from buying cigarettes, according to an Aug. 4, 2021, study in JAMA Network Open. However, they do increase thoughts of quitting among smokers and may be effective when combined with other efforts to reduce tobacco use.   



Last Updated On

September 09, 2022

Originally Published On

September 09, 2022

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