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Court: Cigarette companies don't have to show graphic warning labels

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Court: Cigarette companies don't have to show graphic warning labels Empty Court: Cigarette companies don't have to show graphic warning labels

Post  Gio on Sun Jan 13, 2013 3:19 pm

In August 2012, the US Court of Appeals ruled that the requirement of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which compelled cigarette manufacturers to use graphic warnings or pictograms on the labels of cigarette packages, was unconstitutional because it violated the right of the cigarette companies to free speech. The pictograms depicted, among others, rotting teeth, diseased lungs, a man smoking through a hole in his throat, cancer in the mouth etc. These pictures according to the FDA are intended to discourage people from smoking and to warn the public about the dangers of smoking. The cigarette companies on the other hand argued that the packaging of their product is a form of commercial speech and is therefore protected under the right to freedom of speech of the US constitution.

"This case raises novel questions about the scope of the government's authority to force the manufacturer of a product to go beyond making purely factual and accurate commercial disclosures and undermine its own economic interest -- in this case, by making 'every single pack of cigarettes in the country mini billboard' for the government's anti-smoking message," wrote Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The FDA "has not provided a shred of evidence" showing that the graphic labels would reduce smoking, Brown added.

The US Court of Appeals ruled that because the pictograms goes beyond compelling purely factual and accurate commercial disclosures but in fact even undermines the company’s commercial interests and forces the company to support the advocacy of the government for its anti-smoking campaign and as a result the FDA regulation violates the right to freedom of speech of the cigarette companies.

Youth epidemic
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates some 45 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes, which are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. And the World Health Organization predicts smoking could kill 8 million people each year by 2030 if governments do not do more to help people quit.

Congress passed a law in 2009 that gave the FDA broad powers to regulate the tobacco industry, including imposing the label regulation. The law requires color warning labels big enough to cover the top 50 percent of a cigarette pack's front and back panels, and the top 20 percent of print advertisements.

But the ruling against the FDA means tobacco companies will likely not have to comply with the requirements for now, especially given divergent court rulings.

The U.S. Appeals Court for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, upheld the bulk of the FDA's new tobacco regulations in March of 2012, including the requirement for warning images on cigarette packs.

Most countries in the European Union already carry graphic images to illustrate the health risks of smoking. Earlier this month, Australia took a further step to limit smoking advertising by banning company logos on cigarette packs, and the EU said it was considering a similar ban.

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