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Court supports graphic warnings on cigarette packs, opposing the tobacco industry

Cigarette packages with shocking graphic tobacco packaging warning messages (Via Marshal Bates/Getty Images)

In a significant legal ruling, a federal appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a U.S. government requirement for graphic warnings on cigarette packs and ads.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a previous decision, confirming that the 11 graphic warnings mandated by a 2020 FDA regulation were factual and met First Amendment standards.

Big tobacco companies like RJ Reynolds and ITG Brands had opposed the mandate, arguing it violated their free speech rights by forcing them to endorse images they considered misleading.

The court rejected these arguments, stating the warnings were based on factual information about smoking’s health risks.

Implemented during the Trump administration, the FDA rule requires warnings covering half the cigarette pack and 20% of ads, depicting health issues like amputated toes, fetal growth issues, and cancerous growths.

Ruling seen as a win for public health advocacy (Via John Anderson/Getty Images)

The FDA defended these measures to raise awareness of smoking dangers and counter misinformation.

The court’s decision supports the government’s efforts to reduce smoking harms and promote public health, noting the warnings serve a valid purpose without overly restricting tobacco companies’ messaging.

Despite fewer smokers, cigarette use remains a major U.S. health concern, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths annually.

The ruling marks a win for health advocates and underscores government authority to regulate tobacco for public welfare. The case returns to a lower court to review if the FDA rule complied with administrative law.

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