Nicotine Companies Use Warning Labels to Avoid Responsibility

Today, the risks of smoking cigarettes are well-known: Every carton of cigarettes is branded with labels that read “Smoking kills!” and outline the specific health risks a nicotine habit can present to users.

The required addition of warning labels to cigarette packaging was introduced in the 1960s and framed as a way to educate users and provide transparency from the tobacco industry. A recently published report from the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco presented a legal incentive for cigarette warning labels: With carefully crafted language, brands can circumvent responsibility for the harmful effects, based on the principle of “assumption of risk.” Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A. attorney, Jonathan Gdanski, contributed to the report.

“Assumption of risk” is a defense strategy that can waive a plaintiff’s ability to be compensated for injuries if they were aware of the risk the harmful activity presented, yet proceeded to engage in the risky behavior. In relation to cigarette warning labels, the tobacco companies cannot be held liable for injuries and illness caused by smoking because the user knew the risks when they picked up the pack.

According to the report, this strategy has been present in the industry since warning labels were first introduced, but the issue is presented in a new light in the consideration of the fairly new e-cigarette market.

Government entities have been slow to regulate the rapidly-expanding popularity of vaping as they, like many other organizations, struggle to understand the true effects of the habit. A lack of warning labels is a frequent criticism of regulators’ lack of action in the vaping sphere — health professionals only recently began to gain an understanding of their harm, and the market has outpaced legislation. The FDA did not even require a label stating the presence of nicotine in e-cigarettes until 2018.

If the cigarette industry is any indication, warning labels may do little to curb vaping, and the product manufacturers’ liability for its risks. As of now, e-cigarette brands can face legal action and be required to pay affected families for their suffering — if you are a victim, Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A. is on your side.

Schedule a free consultation with our attorneys through our contact form, or by calling (954) 467-8800.
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