The Federal Trade Commission announces that, starting in 1965, cigarette makers must include warning labels about the harmful effects of smoking.
In 1973, the Assistant Director of Research at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company wrote an internal memorandum regarding new brands of cigarettes for the youth market. He observed that, “psychologically, at eighteen, one is immortal” and theorized that “the desire to be daring is part of the motivation to start smoking.” He stated, “in this sense the label on the package is a plus.”
In 1999, Philip Morris U.S.A. purchased three brands of cigarettes from Liggett Group Inc., then removed the statement from the packages.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 requires color graphics with supplemental text that depicts the negative consequences of smoking to cover 50 percent of the front and rear of each pack. The nine new graphic warning labels were announced by the FDA in June 2011 and were required to appear on packaging by September 2012, though this was delayed by legal challenges.
In August 2011, five tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against the FDA in an effort to reverse the new warning mandate. Tobacco companies claimed that being required to promote government anti-smoking campaigns by placing the new warnings on packaging violates the companies’ free speech rights.
On 29 February 2012, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the labels violate the right to free speech in the First Amendment. However, the following month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld the majority of the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, including the part requiring graphic warning labels.
In April 2013 the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal to this ruling, allowing the new labels to stand. As the original ruling against the FDA images was not actually reversed, the FDA will again need to go through the process of developing the new warning labels, and the timetable and final product remain unknown.