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Ruling Blocking Graphic Cigarette Health Warnings Presents Major Setback for Public Health

November 9, 2011
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Association for Cancer Research strongly opposes the recent federal ruling that blocks implementation of the graphic warning labels for cigarette packaging and advertising and urges the Justice Department to swiftly appeal the decision.  

“This ruling shows a blatant disregard for the scourge of death and disease caused by tobacco use,” said Roy S. Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., chairperson of the AACR Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer and chief of medical oncology at Yale University. “The new labels were developed based on rigorous scientific evidence and will be an invaluable tool to help communicate the many public health dangers of tobacco use.”

The mandate for new health warnings was a critical component of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which was passed with bipartisan support by Congress in 2009. The parameters in the law are based on decades of science showing that large, graphic warnings are an effective way to increase awareness about the dangers of tobacco use, to dissuade nonsmokers from starting to smoke and to motivate smokers to quit.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon grants a preliminary injunction blocking the government from requiring the new warnings, which were unveiled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2011 and were due to appear by September 2012. The new labels use large color photos or drawings to depict the negative health consequences of smoking and include concise statements, such as “Cigarettes cause cancer.”

“This ruling is a disappointing setback, and we hope the administration will waste no time in appealing the injunction,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “Nearly one third of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use — and cancer is only one of the ways that tobacco kills people. Yet, one in five Americans is still smoking, and 1,000 children across the nation become addicted to tobacco products every single day. We must waste no time in our efforts to reduce the burden of this horrible carcinogen which causes no fewer than 18 different types of cancer.”

In 2010, the AACR released a comprehensive policy statement on tobacco and cancer composed of policy recommendations and a road map for future research to stem the tide of tobacco-related death and disease. The statement urged more stringent and effective warning labels based on scientific evidence and recommended inclusion of the 1-800-QUIT-NOW cessation resource on labels.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad, and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.

Media Contact:
Michele Sharp
(215) 446-7156

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