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Harkin Statement on Court Ruling to Block New Tobacco Warning Labels

WASHINGTON – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released the following statement after a federal district judge blocked the Food and Drug Administration’s effort to make Americans aware of the health risks of cigarettes through graphic warnings that, when finalized, will appear on cigarette packages and advertisements.  These new warnings are required by Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, historic legislation sponsored by Chairman Harkin. 

“Tobacco use causes life-threatening health problems, and people should be reminded of that fact when they reach for a cigarette,” said Harkin.  “There is overwhelming evidence that has consistently found that graphic warnings are the most effective at informing the public of the health risks of smoking.  These images are graphic, but they are also realistic, and result in preventing young people from becoming addicted to a product that may lead to cancer or respiratory illness.  Given the cold, hard facts about the dangers of tobacco, today’s decision in favor of tobacco companies and their profit margins is a disappointment, but it will not deter us in our efforts to make Americans – particularly our young people – aware of the dangers of this product. This decision must be appealed so that implementation of the warning label requirement can go forward without delay.”

In 1998, Harkin introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan bill to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco.  Harkin was an original cosponsor of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which required the creation of the new warning labels that are the subject of today’s ruling.  In addition, the legislation banned candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes and misleading health claims such as "light" and "low-tar."  It also requires tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products and empowers the FDA to require changes in tobacco products.