Graphic warnings for cigarette packs and ads postponed again

Food and Drug Administration illustration of some proposed labels

A judge has given cigarette manufacturers until Jan. 14, 2022 to place graphic warning labels on their traditional cigarette packs, Richard Craver reports for the Winston-Salem Journal: “That represents a delay from the Oct. 16, 2021, launch date set May 28 by the Food and Drug Administration. That deadline already was a postponement from the FDA’s original June 18, 2021, launch date.”
The extension was granted by a Texas federal judge, who sided with the tobacco industry which asked for the extension, “arguing the FDA deadline was too onerous given the financial and logistical impact of the Covid-19 pandemic since mid-March,” Craver reports.

The companies told then judge, “These expenditures of resources for the purpose of meeting the rule’s requirements constitute irreparable harm because plaintiffs cannot recover money damages should the rule and/or the graphic-warning requirement in the Tobacco Control Act be invalidated.”

The manufacturers also repeated their claim that the labels violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Craver reports.
The graphic warnings are required to cover the top half of the front and rear panels of traditional cigarette packages, as well as at least 20 percent of the top of advertisements.
The new set of 11 images “depict some of the lesser-known, but serious health risks of cigarette smoking,” such as risk of blindness, lower blood flow to extremities and Type 2 diabetes, the FDA told Craver, who noted that the new images do not include some of the FDA’s earlier warning submissions that included a cadaver and smoke coming out of a throat hole.

The FDA said in the May 8 motion that it “remains fully committed to the rule and would not agree to postpone its effective date, but for the extraordinary disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Craver reports.

He notes that “a coalition of anti-tobacco and public-health groups sued the FDA in October 2016, saying it “unlawfully withheld” or “unreasonably delayed” issuing its final rule.”
The warnings would be the first update to cigarette package warnings in more than 30 years. They were authorized by a 2009 law, but a tobacco company lawsuit blocked the FDA’s first attempt.
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