This week, a U.S. District Court blocked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring cigarettes for sale companies to include graphic warning labels on all cigarette packages and advertisements beginning next September. These requirements were to be the first change to U.S. cigarette warning labels in 25 years, following the 2009 decision by Congress to make the FDA responsible for regulating cheap cigarettes products. Although cigarette packs already carry text warnings from the U.S. Surgeon General, the new warnings would have been larger and contained color graphics depicting the health consequences of smoking cigarettes, including diseased lungs, dead bodies and rotting teeth.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) believes this ruling is a threat to the health of Illinois residents and will impair efforts to reduce youth smoking cigarettes. A comprehensive evaluation by the FDA has shown that the pictorial depiction of the dangers of smoking cigarettes is more effective than printed warning labels. The World Health Organization has repeatedly recommended that health warnings on cigarettes packages increase smokers' awareness of their risk and serve as an effective deterrent to youth tobacco use.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 10 percent of Illinois youths aged 12?17 are cigarette smokers, and 21 percent of the adult population 18 and over -- more than 2 million residents -- are smokers. An estimated 16,000 people die of smoking cigarettes-related diseases annually in Illinois, and cigarette smoking cigarettes costs Illinois approximately $3.2 billion in direct medical expenditures each year.
The federal District Court based its decision on the First Amendment rights of tobacco companies. However, the courts have long recognized the right and responsibility of government to require accurate warning labels on dangerous products, and it is irrefutable that buy cigarette online are dangerous products, causing disease and death.
IDPH strongly recommends that the Justice Department immediately appeal the court's decision in order to protect the health of all Americans by ensuring the FDA has the authority to regulate tobacco products, as required in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.