Big Tobacco Strike Down FDA Cigarette Labelling Proposition

Tobacco groups in the United States have been able to defeat a U.S. law requiring graphic images smoking’s physical damage to be placed prominently on cigarette packages by claiming the law violates the tobacco companies’ rights to free speech.

Washington’s U.S. Court of Appeals, on August 24th stated that the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations requiring graphic images and a hotline phone number be on the cigarette package are “unabashed attempts to evoke emotion” and “browbeat consumers” to stop buying the companies’ products.”

In the 2-1 decision, U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote: “These inflammatory images and the provocatively named hotline cannot rationally be viewed as pure attempts to convey information to consumers.”  The hotline phone number in question is the aptly named 1-800-QUIT NOW.

Commonwealth Brands Inc., Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., and Liggett Group LLC sued the FDA in 2011, claiming that the packaging regulations in the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act violate the First Amendment.  The companies claimed the changes in advertising would cost them over $20 million.

Anti-smoking groups, such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, want the government to appeal the decision.  The groups noted that in March, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled in favour of the government’s packaging and advertising rules, and that not all hope is lost.

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids mentioned in an e-mail: “The split decisions make it likely the U.S. Supreme Court will settle the issue.”