Attorney General Becerra Joins Bipartisan Coalition in Defending FDA’s Authority to Require Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packages

Friday, July 17, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a bipartisan coalition of 25 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ability to require graphic warnings on cigarette packages. Tobacco continues to be one of the deadliest products sold in the United States. Graphic warning labels are critical to counteracting decades of deceptive marketing by tobacco companies meant to mislead the public about the dangers of cigarette use. 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.   

“Smoking remains a serious public health threat in California and across the country,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Americans have a right to know the gruesome consequences of smoking cigarettes. There’s nothing pretty about that. And there’s nothing wrong with being honestly graphic about it. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to attack people’s respiratory systems, it is more important than ever that consumers are fully aware of the dangers of smoking.” 

Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, killing 400,000 people per year, more than the number of people who die from alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murder, and suicides – combined. Over forty years of studies have 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 27, 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. 

In the amicus brief, the coalition argues that the FDA has the ability to require graphic warnings on cigarette packages as part of the Tobacco Control Act because:

  • 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 joins the attorneys general of Idaho, Illinois, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing the amicus brief.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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