There’s a judicial battle raging over the legality of federally mandated imagery on cigarette packages.A federal appeals court decided that it is constitutional for the FDA to require tobacco companies to display large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packages in a 2-1 ruling.
Upholding most of 2009’s Family Prevention and Tobacco Act, The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruled that the labels must be coloured and cover the top 50 per cent of a cigarette package’s front and back (as well as the top 20 per cent of print ads).
This decision comes weeks after a U.S. District Judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in a different case that the gory images the FDA proposed to put on the top half of the front and back of cigarette packages violate tobacco companies’ freedom of speech. The Judge deemed the gruesome labels unnecessary considering various other preventative tools that are at the government’s disposal—including increased cigarette taxes or images that solely display facts in text-form.
But FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told NPR that simple warnings like ‘Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide’ “had lost their power and effect.”
The big difference in the two related cases is that the FDA did not include specific images to the 6th Circuit Court, while the Washington case focused on the labels, themselves.
The tobacco industry did get some good news in the recent ruling. The 6th Circuit Court said it was “overboard” to ban tobacco companies from using colour in their advertisements.
Dan Jaffe, executive vp of the Association of National Advertisers, raised his concerns over the court’s ruling with Adweek. “If the federal government can regulate marketing of a legal product, they can do it to other legal products as well,” he said.
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