FDA Requests Delay on Graphic Cigarette Labels

Tobacco firms seek to postpone the requirement for new labels, citing coronavirus disruptions.

May 11, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alongside major tobacco companies, asked a Texas federal judge to delay the agency’s new requirement for graphic warning labels on cigarette packs because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Law 360 reports.

The FDA is asking the court to delay the effective date by 120 days from June 18, 2021 to October 16, 2021.

“Defendants remain fully committed to the rule and would not agree to postpone its effective date but for the extraordinary disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the FDA and the companies said in a joint motion.

In March, the FDA issued the final rule requiring cigarette manufacturers to display graphic warnings that feature the lesser-known but serious health risks associated with smoking. Retailers of cigarettes are responsible for ensuring those health warnings are visible to the public and unobscured.

R.J. Reynolds, ITG Brands and Liggett Group in April sued to block the rule, maintaining that the graphic warning requirements cross the line into governmental anti-smoking advocacy because the government has never forced makers of a legal product to use their own advertising to spread an emotionally charged message urging adults not to use their products, Law360 reports.

Philip Morris USA Inc. last week sued the Trump Administration over the graphic warning label requirements under First Amendment grounds, Bloomberg reports.

“Plaintiffs know of no other government-mandated disclosure regime that has ever attempted to seize so much speech, let alone to seize the most prominent and visible locations on packaging and advertising for the government’s messages,” Philip Morris, a unit of Altria Group Inc., said in the complaint.