Philip Morris Challenges Health Warnings

    Image by jessica45 from Pixabay

    Philip Morris USA filed a lawsuit on May 6 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the graphic cigarette warnings that tobacco companies will be required to print on their products in the United States starting June 18, 2021.

    It follows a similar lawsuit filed last month by other tobacco companies in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

    This is the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) second attempt to enact graphic health warnings under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The first rule was struck down by the federal court in the District of Columbia as a violation of the First Amendment. The plaintiffs in Texas case state that this version of the FDA’s rule is no improvement and urge the court to strike down both the rule and the Tobacco Control Act’s graphic-warnings requirement as violations of the First Amendment.

    The companies allege that FDA’s required warnings force plaintiffs to become a “mouthpiece for the government’s anti-smoking advocacy” and are “precisely the type of compelled speech that the First Amendment prohibits.”

    The new rule includes 11 graphic images paired with textual warnings. Among other smoking-related afflictions, the images depict a person with neck cancer, ill children and bloody urine

    Also on May 6, the plaintiffs and the government in the Texas case jointly proposed to delay the implementation date for the graphic warnings for four months, from June 18, 2021, to Oct. 16, 2021. 

    Public health advocates expressed outrage at the legal challenge. “It is truly shameless for tobacco companies to file these lawsuits at a time when there is clear evidence that smoking can increase risk of severe complications and even death from Covid-19,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

    “We urge the Administration to vigorously defend these warnings in court and urge the court to reject the proposed four-month delay.”