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NAQC Newsroom: Tobacco Control

Appeals Court Upholds Tobacco Control Act

Wednesday, March 21, 2012  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov

Legal Update: Appeals Court Upholds Tobacco Control Act

Yesterday, an appeals court issued a decision upholding many parts of the federal Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Major tobacco companies had sued the FDA in 2009 challenging the legality of many of the Tobacco Control Act's provisions.

The Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit found many parts of the Tobacco Control Act legally valid, including:

  • large graphic warning labels required on tobacco packages,
  • a ban on brand-name event sponsorships,
  • a ban on branded non-tobacco items, such as hats and keychains,
  • a ban on claims implying that a tobacco product is safer because of FDA regulation and approval,
  • a ban on tobacco companies making health claims about tobacco products without FDA review, and
  • a ban on the distribution of free samples.


The court ruled that two provisions of the law violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because they restricted too much of the tobacco companies' speech:

  • a ban on brand loyalty programs, and
  • a ban on color and graphics in tobacco labels and advertising.


The court’s decision to uphold the graphic warning label requirement is separate from a lawsuit pending in Washington, D.C.'s Court of Appeals questioning whether the graphic warning labels proposed by the FDA are constitutional. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of the graphic warning labels on cigarette packages on April 10.

Yesterday's ruling may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court ultimately decides that any of the Tobacco Control Act's provisions are unconstitutional, just those portions of the Act would be struck down-the other provisions would remain in place. For more information on the specific claims made in the lawsuit, see TALC's FAQ, "I heard that tobacco companies have challenged the new Tobacco Control Act. What is the lawsuit about and how will it affect the law's implementation?"

A copy of the decision is available at www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/12a0076p-06.pdf. PHLP will continue to provide updates about relevant tobacco control cases as they occur. If you have any questions about this or other tobacco control legal cases, please contact us at www.phlpnet.org/tobaccoquestions.

Source: Public Health Law & Policy

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