Washington, D.C., Feb. 29, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon that the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco warning labels are unconstitutional:
“Today’s district court ruling that the FDA’s tobacco warning labels violate the First Amendment is unconscionable.
In his decision, Judge Leon stated that tobacco warning labels fail to convey any factual information about the health consequences of smoking. Nothing could be further from the truth. These labels clearly depict the terrible effects of tobacco addiction. Additionally, research has shown that these images are very effective in reducing tobacco use.
The American Heart Association believes that the graphic depictions of smoking-related diseases on cigarette packages will drive home the message that tobacco use is an equal opportunity killer, affecting smokers and nonsmokers alike. Cigarette smoking causes about 443,000 premature deaths each year and about 49,000 of these deaths are due to secondhand smoke.
In the United States, about one-third of smoking-related deaths are linked to heart disease and stroke.
Tobacco warning labels play a vital role to help current smokers quit and keep children from becoming addicted. Without them there could be more deaths from tobacco addiction and more profits for the tobacco industry.
While Judge Leon’s ruling was not unexpected given his earlier decision to block graphic warning labels, we sincerely hope this decision will be overturned on appeal.”