A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has unanimously upheld graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and advertising required under a 2020 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule

This decision reverses a ruling by a lower court judge that blocked the warnings. Rejecting tobacco industry arguments, the appellate court found that the FDA’s warnings were “factual and uncontroversial” and did not violate the First Amendment. 

“This decision is an important step toward finally implementing graphic cigarette warnings in the United States, which were first mandated by Congress in 2009. The graphic warnings are critically needed as the current text-only warnings have become stale and unnoticed since they were last updated in 1984,” reads a joint statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Truth Initiative.

Congress first mandated the graphic health warnings as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which required graphic warnings covering the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20% of cigarette advertisements. 

“The tobacco companies’ long legal battle against the graphic warnings exposes their sheer hypocrisy when they say they want to reduce the enormous harm caused by cigarettes. Far from helping to create a smoke-free future, these companies are doing everything they can to perpetuate cigarette sales and fight policies like graphic warnings and the elimination of menthol cigarettes that would actually reduce cigarette use,” reads the joint statement. 

The statement continues, “Policymakers at all levels must stand up to this deadly industry and implement proven policies to reduce tobacco use, including graphic cigarette warnings and the elimination of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products.” 

The organizations issuing the joint statement joined an amicus brief in support of the FDA’s graphic cigarette warnings last year. 

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