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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One day after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction against the new cigarette warning labels, several legislators are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fight the decision.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FDA yesterday, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged the immediate appeal of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's ruling that blocks, for now, the mandatory new warnings. The graphic text and images were slated to appear on all cigarette packages and advertisements by September 2012.
In his decision, Leon cited his determination that tobacco companies -- namely R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC -- would likely win their lawsuit challenging the Food and Drug Administration's requirement as unconstitutional, as CSNews Online reported Monday.
The lawmakers' letter states, "In 2009, Congress took the critical step of giving FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products by passing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This law includes important provisions requiring cigarette manufacturers to include new labels with textual warning statements and graphic color images depicting the negative health consequences of smoking. In June, we applauded FDA's implementation of these provisions through its release of nine different graphic warning labels, each based on sound science on the effectiveness of graphic warning labels and recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and the Surgeon General. Within their first year of use, these labels are expected to deter hundreds of thousands of people, including many young people, from smoking."
Furthermore, the legislators remarked that cigarettes have been required to feature warning labels for 45 years and the nine updated warnings are a continuation of that mandate.
"[The]FDA's new labels build upon existing requirements to poignantly demonstrate to consumers that cigarette smoking is hazardous to their health. The warning content includes factual statements and graphic representations that help to educate the general public about the dangers of smoking, encourage current smokers to quit and prevent non-smokers from initiating cigarette use. The court's ruling jeopardizes efforts to use strong warning labels to protect public health," the senators wrote.