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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As expected, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is appealing the recent ruling that struck down the new federally mandated graphic cigarette warning labels. The agency filed a notice of appeal yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in a bid to overturn Judge Richard Leon's decision that the nine graphic labels violate the First Amendment.
Leon's Feb. 29 ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in August by several tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC. The warnings, which include a combination of text and images, were mandated to appear on all cigarette packaging and advertising effective Sept. 22.
Leon's decision was not completely unexpected. In November, he granted a temporary injunction against the warning labels on the grounds that the tobacco companies could win their legal battle against the FDA's mandate, as CSNews Online previously reported.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., is slated to hear arguments on the injunction April 10. It is not clear whether the three-judge panel will also consider the FDA's latest appeal at that time, according to Bloomberg.
Although the FDA did not immediately respond following Leon's decision last week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services hinted that an appeal was likely.
"This administration is determined to do everything we can to warn young people about the dangers of smoking, which remains the leading cause of preventable death in America," the department said in a statement at the time. "This public health initiative will be an effective tool in our efforts to stop teenagers from starting in the first place and taking up this deadly habit. We are confident that efforts to stop these important warnings from going forward will ultimately fail."
The FDA was directed by Congress to update the current cigarette warning labels as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products.