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FDA Pushes Back Cigarette Graphic Warning Implementation Date

FDA's cigarette warnings

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Tobacco companies will have extra time to incorporate new cigarette warning labels and graphics into their packaging and advertising.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted a request to postpone the effective date 120 days. The request came as a joint motion in the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration et al.

The agency cited the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the both the tobacco industry and the FDA as reasons for the delay.

"FDA remains fully committed to the rule and would not agree to postpone its effective date but not for the extraordinary disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," it said.

With the change, the new effective date for the cigarette labeling and health warning rule will move from June 18, 2021 to Oct. 16, 2021. However, the FDA "strongly encourages entities to submit cigarette plans as soon as possible, and in any event by Dec. 16, 2020."

In March, the FDA issued its final rule requiring health warnings on cigarette packages and in cigarette ads. The graphic warnings feature a combination of text and images depicting some of the health risks of cigarette smoking, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

The warnings will be required to appear on the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packages and at least 20 percent of the top of ads. In addition, the warnings must be "randomly and equally displayed and distributed on cigarette packages and rotated quarterly in cigarette advertisements," the FDA said.

The final rule was ultimately challenged by several tobacco companies. On April 3, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., ITG Brands, Liggett Group and five tobacco retailers filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against the FDA. The companies want to invalidate the health warnings and the requirement mandated under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that directs the FDA to issue the warnings.

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