HomeWashington Letter2024 ▶ Appeals Court Affirms Tobacco Graphic Warning Labels are Constitutional
Appeals Court Affirms Tobacco Graphic Warning Labels are Constitutional

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans confirmed required graphic warning labels developed by FDA are contain factual information and are therefore constitutional.  The Appeals court decision overturns a lower court decision that ruled against the graphic warning labels saying that the graphic warning labels were designed to elicit an emotional response and therefore strayed beyond merely providing factual information. 

While the graphic warning label decision is a win for tobacco control advocates it is not the end of legal challenges to FDA developed graphic warning labels.  The Appeals court remanded the case back to the lower court and directed to the lower court rule on whether FDA had violated any administrative requirements in the development of graphic warning label. Further, the tobacco companies could appeal the court’s decision, potentially further delaying the implementation of graphic warning labels.

The Tobacco Control Act, enacted in 2009, mandated that FDA develop and implement graphic warning labels on cigarette products that cover fifty percent of the packaging.  FDA has attempted two separate sets of proposed graphic warning labels only to be blocked by legal challenges brought by the tobacco industry. 

“For nearly 15 years, big tobacco has used the courts to delay implementation of graphic warning labels,” says Hasmeena Kathuria MD – Chair of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee.  “We know from research that graphic warning labels can reduce youth initiation and increase quit attempts.  It is past time FDA move forward with graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging.” 

Last Reviewed: March 2024