Tobacco lawsuit undermines public health legislation

For Immediate Release:
August 18, 2011

In an attempt to bully the U.S. into delaying implementation of effective tobacco control efforts, five U.S. based tobacco corporations joined together to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over its recent mandate for graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging. RJ Reynolds, the makers of Camel cigarettes, and Lorillard, the makers of Newport cigarettes, are among those filing the suit.

More than 40 countries around the world have developed requirements for graphic health warnings based on the obligations of the world’s first public health and corporate accountability treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Graphic health warnings are a key component of comprehensive tobacco control, effective at reducing tobacco consumption and protecting public health. 

The lawsuit filed against the U.S government follows a global trend by the tobacco industry to delay and undermine implementation of effective tobacco control efforts and wastes taxpayer dollars during tough economic times. The tobacco industry’s “intimidation through litigation” strategy is particularly timely considering that the FDA is currently debating a ban on menthol additives in cigarettes. The lead filer of today’s lawsuit is Lorillard, the number one manufacturer of menthol cigarettes here in the U.S. 

After generations of Big Tobacco’s aggressive marketing and deception – graphic health warning labels help increase public awareness about the health effects of tobacco. 

In the U.S. and in countries around the world, advertising budgets for tobacco corporations greatly exceed government resources for public education and tobacco control measures. Despite restrictions on such advertising, Big Tobacco continues to target our children with marketing schemes to sell an addictive and deadly product. The industry’s advertising also targets communities which may have lower literacy rates, making graphic health warnings even more critical to convey the truth behind the health consequences of tobacco addiction. 

Corporate Accountability International applauds the U.S. government for standing up to protect people’s health and looks for a timely resolution that puts public health before tobacco industry profits.

For more information, read the column in the New York Times.

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