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The United States has been lagging behind other countries where it comes to health warnings on cigarette packets. In Fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has failed to update such warnings for over 30 years, since 1984.

Almost a decade ago in 2009, Congress had enacted the Tobacco Control Act, which amended the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act and required the FDA to issue “regulations that require color graphics depicting the negative health consequences of smoking to accompany the label statements.”

Latest warnings declared non-constitutional

In 2011, the agency released nine new graphic warnings and issued a regulation requiring all cigarette manufacturers to use these warnings on their cigarette packing and on any adverts. Five tobacco companies sued the FDA, claiming that the proposed warnings violated the First Amendment, as they sent a direct message to consumers to not purchase the products.

Members of the public who wish to have their say, have a time frame of 30 days to submit their feedback.
“The warnings, therefore, were not selected based on their ability to increase consumer knowledge. Instead, they were intentionally crafted to attach ‘negative affect’ to cigarettes and convey a message to consumers that smoking is not a legitimate or acceptable personal choice.” they argued in court.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favour, saying, “the First Amendment requires the government not only to state a substantial interest justifying a regulation on commercial speech, but also to show that its regulation directly advances that goal.”

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Finally this week, the FDA announced its proposed research on lawful cigarette warnings in a public notice in the Federal Register. The aim of this voluntary online consumer study, is to assess whether the warnings that the agency was forced to revise, actually promote a better understanding of the risks of smoking.

In its announcement, the agency said the gathered data will help inform health warnings that are effective and lawful. Members of the public who wish to have their say, have a time frame of 30 days to submit their feedback.

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