Truth Initiative joined seven public health groups to file a lawsuit to compel the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce a requirement that graphic health warnings appear on cigarette packs and in advertising.

The lawsuit maintains that the FDA is failing to enforce a mandate in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that requires graphic warnings on the top half of both sides of cigarette packs and in at least 20 percent of cigarette advertising.

The FDA met an initial deadline to issue a rule that included graphic warnings, but a federal appeals court struck down those particular warnings. That court ruling, however, did not invalidate the requirement that the FDA develop graphic warning rules. A separate March 2012 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the requirement that the FDA develop graphic warnings.

While the FDA stated in 2013 that it planned to issue a new rule requiring graphic warnings, it has yet to do so. The groups are seeking a court order requiring the FDA to propose a new set of graphic warnings. 

“The FDA has been in violation [of the 2009 law] for more than four years,” the lawsuit states. “During that time, over three million Americans, the vast majority of them minors, have begun to smoke on a regular basis. Half of them will die prematurely as a result of tobacco-related disease.”

With increasing restrictions on tobacco marketing, packaging has remained a prime way for the tobacco industry to influence consumers.

Studies have found that viewing graphic anti-smoking images on cigarette packs could effectively warn smokers about the health consequences of cigarettes. Other research shows that misleading descriptors and other aspects of cigarette packs lead 50 to 60 percent of U.S. adults to incorrectly believe that some cigarettes are less harmful than others.

The lawsuit was filed by Truth Initiative, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and several individual pediatricians.

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