The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld the US Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate tobacco products, specifically a requirement that cigarette makers label their products with graphic warning images, according to an article in MedPage Today. In a 2-to-1 decision issued on Monday, and backed by an earlier ruling by a lower court in Kentucky, the appeal court ruled that requiring cigarette packs to contain graphic images and text warnings of the health risks of smoking is aimed at protecting consumer health, and therefore constitutional.

Tobacco companies had sued the FDA over the labeling requirements in two separate cases, arguing that the new regulations violate the companies’ First Amendment rights.

In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products. The law also requires that starting on September 22, 2012, cigarettes sold in the United States must carry graphic images warning of the dangers of smoking. These images include rotting teeth, diseased lungs, a baby enveloped in smoke, and a body on an autopsy table.

Monday’s ruling contradicts a ruling from earlier this month, in which a federal judge ruled the requiring cigarette packages to carry the graphic health warnings on their labels is a violation of the tobacco companies’ First Amendment rights.

The federal government appealed that decision, and the US Court of Appeals District of Columbia will hold a hearing on the case on April 10. Those watching the case expect it to ultimately end up in the Supreme Court.

Source: MedPage Today