Health Law

FDA has 'unreasonably delayed' graphic warnings on cigarette packs, Mass. federal court rules

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has unreasonably delayed enforcing a 2009 law calling for graphic warnings on cigarette packages, a Massachusetts federal judge ruled Wednesday.

“The court must compel agency action,” Judge Indira Talwani wrote in her decision, reports the Boston Globe.

The law requires that color images of health issues caused by tobacco use must appear on more than half of the cigarette pack and 20 percent of advertisements. In 2011, the FDA suggested using photos that displayed damage to teeth and lungs from tobacco use. However, the tobacco industry brought a lawsuit challenging the law on First Amendment grounds.

In 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the graphic warnings rule, according to the FDA. The agency has been researching imagery since then.

Also in 2012, the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the graphic warning requirement did not violate the First Amendment, Courthouse News Service reports. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a tobacco industry cert petition on the case.

Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics filed the Boston lawsuit. Judge Talwani’s order set a deadline of Sept. 26 for the FDA to submit a schedule regarding publication of the new warnings.

An FDA spokesman told the Globe that the White House is “analyzing the ruling … and will comply with any court order.”

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