A Texas Federal Court Postpones The FDA’s Cigarette Health Warning Deadline

A judge at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted a motion of delay to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al. v. the United States Food and Drug Administration et al., by an additional 90 days.

The court handed down the motion to the plaintiffs on December 2, 2020.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the new effective date of the final rule is now January 14, 2020.

“Pursuant to the court order, any obligation to comply with a deadline tied to the effective date is similarly postponed,” states a disclosure found on the FDA’s informational webpage on cigarette labeling and health warnings. The FDA “strongly encourages entities to submit cigarette plans…as soon as possible, and in any event by March 16, 2021.”

R.J. Reynolds, along with other U.S. cigarette manufacturers and retailers, filed the initial lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas back in April in a bid to further invalidate the FDA’s rule to mandate new warning labeling, which was ordered by Congress in prior legislation.

Philip Morris USA, Sherman Group Holdings, Altria Group, and others filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Washington, D.C. against the FDA asking for the same policy resolution.

Considering the nature of case-law, the Texas decision could further impact decisions for other lawsuits like the Philip Morris USA et al case in the District of Columbia.

The FDA published to the Federal Register its finalized rule for cigarette packaging and advertisements, including health warnings, back in March of 2020.

According to the FDA, the new rule establishes 11 new cigarette health warnings, including textual and colorized graphics, including the use of photorealistic illustrations, that depict the negative health consequence of smoking cigarettes.

Compared to health warning labels in other countries that depict stigmatizing and highly graphical images of the health issues from smoking, the FDA’s labels are illustrated and are considerably less harmful.

The FDA’s warnings also depict some of the lesser-known health risks of smoking.

While graphic imaging is a proven strategy to curtail smoking, the practice still stigmatizes the behavior and directly harms those who struggle to quit smoking.

Luckily, the FDA’s illustrations aren’t as damaging. Still, stigmatizing though.

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