Dammit! Judge rules against graphic warning labels on cigarettes

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Aw, crap!

The tobacco companies might actually win this round. A federal judge in Washington, D.C., Richard Leon, slapped an injunction against the graphic warning labels, saying there is a likelihood he would rule against the Food and Drug Administration. The tobacco industry (every major company but Philip Morris joined the lawsuit) argued that the labels violated their free speech.

The judge ruled that the images were in violation of a “First Amendment principle that prevents the government from compelling speech in the commercial arena.”

In issuing the injunction, Judge Leon states:

“It is abundantly clear from viewing these images that the emotional response they were crafted to induce is calculated to provoke the viewer to quit, or never to start smoking — an objective wholly apart from disseminating purely factual and uncontroversial information.”

Shit, shit, SHIT!

“Today’s ruling reaffirms fundamental First Amendment principles by rejecting the notion that the government may require those who sell lawful products to adults to urge current and prospective purchasers not to purchase those products.”

— Floyd Abrams, a partner in the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel that’s representing Lorillard (Newport).

It doesn’t look good for the graphic warnings, which are in place and perfectly legal in places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Those countries don’t have a First Amendment and the kinds of legal protection for the tobacco industry that the U.S. does.

Someone did make a good point to me, though, that “do you really think that a smoker is going to care what the images are?” Most probably won’t. Most I’m sure will ignore them, but if one, or two or three or a few more than that ARE affected by them and say to themselves, “Shit, I really need to quit,” than yeah, I think they make a difference.

The case is still active, but with the injunction in place, the graphic warnings on cigarettes, in the U.S. at least, are probably a few years off at best.

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