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R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. FDA (2011)

In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products. In particular, the Act instructed the FDA to come up with images to accompany 9 new warnings that would appear on cigarette packages. In 2011, the FDA issued a rule setting forth the images. Several tobacco companies promptly sued, arguing that the warnings violated their First Amendment rights.

Public Citizen filed a brief defending FDA rules requiring graphic warnings on cigarette packaging and advertisements. On behalf of ourselves, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and several other public health organizations, the brief argued that the need for the new warnings is supported by overwhelming evidence that existing warnings fail to adequately inform consumers about the health risks of smoking, and that large, graphic warnings of the sort required by the FDA are more effective at accomplishing that purpose. The district court held that the images violate the first amendment. In a decision issued in August 2012, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.