In a statement issued this week, the American Thoracic Society (ATS) President Monica Kraft, MD, said the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit decision last week to strike down the graphic warnings on cigarette packages required by the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, and passed by Congress with bipartisan support, “defies logic and science.” The court ruled that the labels proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violated the First Amendment.

The warning labels were set to appear on all cigarette packages beginning in September. The FDA estimated that the labels would help reduce the number of smokers by more than 20,000 people by 2013.

“In siding with Big Tobacco, the court majority decided that the ‘First Amendment requires the government not only to state a substantial interest in justifying a regulation on commercial speech, but also to show that its regulation directly advances the goal’ of reducing smoking rates. That the court would find unconvincing the scores of scientific studies demonstrating the effectiveness of these graphic warnings is very difficult to understand. If the warnings were ineffective, why would the tobacco industry be using every legal means possible to stop them?” said Kraft, who is also a professor of medicine and founding director of the Asthma, Allergy and Airway Center at Duke University Medical Center.

The Kraft went on to say that the court’s decision represents the “latest campaign of deception by Big Tobacco to wage war on Americans’ health,” and noted that in Circuit Judge Judith W. Rogers’ dissent she stated that “it is beyond dispute that the tobacco companies have engaged in a decades-long campaign to deceive consumers….” and that they have “spent more than $13 billion to attract new users, retain current users, increase consumption, and generate favorable long-term attitudes toward smoking and tobacco use, often misleadingly portraying the use of tobacco as socially acceptable and healthful to minors.”

Kraft is calling on the US Department of Justice to appeal the decision.

Source: American Thoracic Society