U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging quick action to develop new graphic warning labels for cigarette packages and advertising. Earlier this week, the FDA and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they would not appeal a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that vacated an earlier FDA rule requiring the use of graphic cigarette warning labels.
The Senators urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to develop the strongest possible replacement rule on graphic warning labels in order to deter new smokers from taking up the habit and encourage current smokers to quit.
"Big tobacco will use the delay in requiring graphic warning labels to hook more young people onto a deadly habit. As strong supporters of laws to protect Americans from the dangerous effects of tobacco, we urge FDA to move as quickly as possible to develop and implement a strong new graphic warning labeling rule that will prevent people from picking up this potentially deadly habit and convince current smokers to quit," the Senators wrote.
In June 2011, the FDA chose new graphic labels that send a tough message about the dangers of smoking. The nine health warning labels chosen were scheduled for use on all cigarette packages and advertisements beginning in September 2012.
A copy of today's letter can be found here, and the text is copied below:
March 22, 2012
Dear Commissioner Hamburg:
In the wake of the Department of Justice and Food and Drug Administration's decision not to seek further review of a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling vacating FDA's graphic warning labeling rule for cigarette packages, we write to urge FDA to promptly develop and promulgate a strong new graphic warning labeling rule to replace the one that was vacated. These cigarette labels will be a critical tool in protecting the health of young Americans from the deadly effects of tobacco.
Cigarettes continue to burden the health and financial well-being of Americans. Forty-five million Americans smoke cigarettes, and every day almost 4,000 young people under the age of 18 try their first cigarette. In the U.S., 10 million cigarettes are sold every minute. This year alone, 443,000 Americans will die from tobacco use, more than the number of people who will die from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and homicides combined. Annually, tobacco costs the nation over $200 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity.
In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving FDA the critical authority to regulate tobacco products. This law requires cigarette manufacturers to use new labels with graphic color images depicting the dangers of smoking. In June 2011, FDA unveiled nine graphic warning labels to be placed on the front and back panels of cigarette packaging. These labels were each based on sound science and recommendations from the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, and the U.S. Surgeon General. Within their first year of use, these labels were expected to deter hundreds of thousands of people, including many young people, from smoking.
FDA has committed to undertaking further research to support a new rule on graphic warning labels. Big tobacco will use the delay in requiring graphic warning labels to hook more young people onto a deadly habit. As strong supporters of laws to protect Americans from the dangerous effects of tobacco, we urge FDA to move as quickly as possible to develop and implement a strong new graphic warning labeling rule that will prevent people from picking up this potentially deadly habit and convince current smokers to quit.
Frank R Lautenberg
The full text can also be found in PDF format below: