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25 attorneys general file amicus brief supporting warning labels on cigarette packages

Christian Fernsby |
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden led a coalition of 25 attorneys general filing an amicus brief supporting federal regulations requiring graphic image warning labels, which consist of color images that depict the dangers of smoking, on cigarette packages.

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Topics: CIGARETTE   

Raoul and the coalition filed the brief in R.J. Reynolds v. FDA in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, supporting the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services to issue regulations requiring graphic images to be included with text warnings on cigarette packages.

The attorneys general argue that, contrary to the plaintiffs’ claims, the regulations do not violate the First Amendment. Additionally, the government has a substantial interest in ensuring that customers understand the dangers of smoking, particularly as tobacco companies have a long history of deceiving consumers.

“The same tobacco companies that spent decades misleading the public and downplaying the addictiveness and health risks associated with cigarettes are now trying to claim that images demonstrating those risks somehow violate their First Amendment rights,” Raoul said.

“The concept would be laughable were it not so dangerous. The FDA must have the ability to enact regulations that ensure consumers are aware of the risks before using these potentially fatal products.”

Raoul and the attorneys general point out that the proposed graphic warning labels are needed to counter the effects of deceptive and fraudulent conduct by tobacco companies. The FDA’s labels warn users of death and disease resulting from smoking, the effects of secondhand smoke and the dangers of smoking during pregnancy.

In the brief, the attorneys general highlight previous court decisions finding that tobacco companies intentionally misled consumers by minimizing the hazards of smoking and exposure to smoking. The attorneys general state that in order to attempt to undo the decades of deception by tobacco companies, cigarette packages must feature powerful and graphic warning labels.

Currently, the Attorney General’s office is investigating one of the nation’s leading e-cigarette companies, Juul Labs, for possible violations of Illinois’ consumer protection laws. While the Attorney General’s investigation into Juul’s marketing practices is ongoing, the office is also evaluating the possibility of investigating additional e-cigarette companies.

Joining Attorneys General Raoul and Wasden in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

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