Attorney General Becerra Files Amicus Brief in Support of FDA’s Ability to Require Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packages

Friday, October 16, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as part of a bipartisan coalition of 29 attorneys general, filed an amicus brief in support of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ability to require graphic warnings on cigarette packages in the case Philip Morris USA v. FDA. Tobacco continues to be the deadliest product sold in the United States and one of the most addictive. In the amicus brief, the coalition argues that the FDA has a significant interest in informing the public of the potential health consequences of smoking and is not prevented from requiring graphic warnings by the First Amendment.    

“As tobacco companies work to entice a new generation of smokers, the FDA must work to inform Americans of the consequences of using tobacco products,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Smoking cigarettes is a deadly choice, particularly in the midst of a respiratory pandemic. That’s why we’re standing with a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in support of the FDA’s ability to require graphic warnings on cigarette packages.” 

Smoking is the number one preventable killer in the United States, with over 480,000 Americans dying from tobacco-related diseases every year. This is more than the number of people who die from alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murder, and suicides – combined. Over forty years of experience has shown that small, obscurely placed, and text-only warning labels on cigarette packs simply do not work. More than 40 million Americans continue to smoke today.

On March 18, 2020, the FDA issued a final rule requiring that new graphic warnings be placed on cigarette packages and cigarette advertisements to increase the public’s awareness of the serious health consequences of cigarette smoking. The warnings are necessary to counteract the effect that decades of deception by the cigarette manufacturers have had on the public. The warnings will permit consumers to make an informed choice rather than a choice made without considering relevant information. 

In the amicus brief, the bipartisan coalition urges the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to uphold the FDA’s ability to require graphic warnings, arguing that:

  • The FDA has a substantial interest in reinforcing consumers’ understanding of the dangers of smoking; and
  • The warning labels are consistent with the First Amendment because they serve the public interest of disclosing beneficial consumer information and counteract decades of deceptive behavior by the tobacco industry.  

Attorney General Becerra joined a similar brief in support of the FDA’s ability to require graphic warnings on cigarette packages in July 2020.

Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing the amicus brief. 

A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.

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