Federal Court To Decide On Graphic Cigarette Labels
On Tuesday, the Federal Appeals Court in Washington DC heard the case between the lawyers of tobacco companies versus the government to decide if cigarette cartons should contain graphic warning labels with images of diseased lungs or sewn up torsos.
In 2009 Congress gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco, after the FDA proposed to require tobacco makers to place stronger warnings and graphic pictures on the top half of cigarette packages starting in September 2012.
In February, Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the graphic warning labels and images that would be put on cigarette cartons violated First Amendment free-speech rights.
The case rose again when the U.S. government appealed the February ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia. Now the fight continues between tobacco companies and the Obama administration about how far they can go in trying to stop people from smoking, with graphic labels serving as a public service announcement.
The case deals largely with issues of First Amendment Rights for both parties.
Patrick Reynolds, of TobaccoFree.org, said, “It’s been proven in study after study that these images deter young people from starting to smoke, from buying a cigarette package.”
Reynolds said, “It’s time to have some counter advertising right on the side of the cigarette packages to give consumers a voice and to give some balance to the glamorization of tobacco.”
On Tuesday, two out of three judges on the U.S. Appeals Court had questions about how the lower D.C. courts had previously handled the case based on constitutional grounds:
“You can’t use cigarettes safely. So what?” said Judge A. Raymond Randolph. “What’s that got to do with the First Amendment. I have a fundamental problem with the way both sides have approached this case and the district judge.”
Mr. Randolph said an important part of the case is looking at law involving agency rule-making procedures. On the constitutional issue involving the graphic images, the judge said, “We are in new territory.”
For now, the warning labels will not be placed on cartons until a decision is made.