Durbin, Senators Urge Justice Department, FDA to Appeal Tobacco Warning Label Ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 6, 2012.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was joined by U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging an immediate appeal of the recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which found that graphic cigarette warning labels are unconstitutional.

“FDA’s new labels build upon existing requirements to effectively demonstrate to consumers that cigarette smoking is hazardous to their health. The warning content includes factual statements and graphic representations that help to educate the general public about the dangers of smoking, encourage current smokers to quit, and prevent non-smokers from initiating cigarette use,” the Senators wrote. “The court’s ruling jeopardizes efforts to use strong warning labels to protect public health.”

Last November, Senators Durbin, Lautenberg, Harkin, Brown, Blumenthal and Merkley called on the DOJ to appeal a preliminary injunction by the U.S. District Court that halted the implementation of the FDA’s new graphic warning labels on cigarette packages. The DOJ filed its appeal later that month.

In June 2011, the FDA chose new graphic labels that send a tough message about the dangers of smoking. The nine health warning labels chosen were scheduled for use on all cigarette packages and advertisements beginning in September 2012.

A copy of their letter is copied below and attached:

March 5, 2012

The Honorable Eric Holder

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

The Honorable Margaret Hamburg

Commissioner

Food and Drug Administration

10903 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, MD 20993

Dear Attorney General Holder and Commissioner Hamburg:

We write to urge the Department of Justice and the Food and Drug Administration to immediately appeal a recent U.S. District Court ruling finding FDA’s graphic warning labels on cigarette packages to be unconstitutional. These cigarette labels will be an important tool in educating children and adults about the dangers of smoking, and this misguided ruling threatens to undermine efforts to prevent the deadly impacts of smoking.

Cigarettes continue to burden the health and financial well-being of Americans. Forty-six million Americans smoke cigarettes and more than 2,000 young people under the age of 18 start smoking each day. Ten million cigarettes are sold every minute. This year alone, 443,000 Americans will die from tobacco use, more than the number of people who will die from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and homicides combined. Annually, tobacco costs the nation more than $100 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity.

In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving FDA the critical authority to regulate tobacco products. This law requires cigarette manufacturers to include new labels with graphic color images depicting the dangers of smoking. We have applauded FDA’s implementation of these provisions through its release of nine different graphic warning labels, each based on sound science and recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Institute of Medicine, and the Surgeon General. Within their first year of use, these labels are expected to deter hundreds of thousands of people, including many young people, from smoking.

For 45 years, cigarettes have been required to carry warning labels that educate consumers about the dangers of smoking. FDA’s new labels build upon existing requirements to effectively demonstrate to consumers that cigarette smoking is hazardous to their health. The warning content includes factual statements and graphic representations that help to educate the general public about the dangers of smoking, encourage current smokers to quit, and prevent non-smokers from initiating cigarette use. The court’s ruling jeopardizes efforts to use strong warning labels to protect public health.

When the court issued a preliminary injunction last year blocking the implementation of the new labels, DOJ and FDA appropriately appealed the ruling. We urge DOJ and FDA to appeal this latest disappointing court decision and we look forward to continuing to work together to protect public health.

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Source: durbin.senate.gov