The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked a Texas federal judge to delay the agency’s new requirement for graphic warning labels on cigarette packs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Law 360.
The FDA is asking the court to postpone the effective date by 120 days from June 18, 2021, to Oct. 16, 2021.
“Defendants remain fully committed to the rule and would not agree to postpone its effective date but for the extraordinary disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the FDA and the companies said in a joint motion.
In March, the FDA issued the final rule requiring cigarette manufacturers to display graphic warnings that feature lesser-known health risks associated with smoking. Retailers of cigarettes are responsible for ensuring those health warnings are visible to the public and unobscured.
According to Law360, R.J. Reynolds, ITG Brands and Liggett Group sued to block the rule last month, saying the graphic warning requirements cross the line into governmental anti-smoking advocacy because the government has never forced makers of a legal product to use their own advertising to spread an emotionally charged message urging adults not to use their products.
Philip Morris USA Inc. also sued the Trump Administration last week over the label requirements under First Amendment grounds, according to Bloomberg.
“Plaintiffs know of no other government-mandated disclosure regime that has ever attempted to seize so much speech, let alone to seize the most prominent and visible locations on packaging and advertising for the government’s messages,” Philip Morris, a unit of Altria Group Inc., said in the complaint.