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Ohio State Study Supports Graphic Warning Labels On Cigarettes

Lindsay Fox
Wikimedia Commons

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) passed in 2009 requires the FDA to include new warning labels on cigarette packages. But in 2012, the agency’s attempt to add the labels was thwarted by a lawsuit from cigarette companies, who said the requirements violated First Amendment rights.

In August 2019, the agency proposed 13 revised graphic warning labels, which are scheduled for a final rule in March. 

According to Patricia Zettler, an assistant professor at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law and a member of the university's Comprehensive Cancer Center, those new labels should survive constitutional scrutiny.  

“The gist of our argument is that the images are really factual,” Zettler said. “They’re not ideological or controversial. They’re representative of the health effects of smoking.”

In an article this month in the medial journal JAMA Oncology, Zettler, fellow Ohio State researcher Theodore L. Wagener, and Tony Yang of George Washington University examine the legal viability of the new FDA labels. 

"If the FDA’s 2019 proposed rule is finalized, the potential effect on consumer knowledge and understanding about the harms of smoking is likely to be high,” the authors write in the piece. 

The FDA says the addition of graphic warning labels would constitute the most significant change to cigarette packaging in 35 years. 

Last year, multiple tobacco companiessaid they were reviewing the proposed FDA rule.