Big tobacco is suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the graphic images mandated to appear on every pack of cigarettes sold in the U.S. after September 2012. (See all nine images below.) The warnings are required under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act passed by Congress and signed into law in June 2009.
In a press release, Lorillard, Inc., the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the U.S., said the warnings are an “unconstitutional way of forcing tobacco manufacturers to disseminate the government’s anti-smoking message.” Lorillard, Inc. is joined in the lawsuit by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands, Inc., and Liggett Group LLC.
By law, beginning in September 2012, the new cigarette health warnings must appear on the top 50 percent of both the front and rear panels of each cigarette package, and in the upper portion of each cigarette ad, taking up at least 20 percent of the space.
“The regulations violate the First Amendment. The notion that the government can require those who manufacture a lawful product to emblazon half of its package with pictures and words admittedly drafted to persuade the public not to purchase that product cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny,” said Floyd Abrams, a partner in the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel, who is representing Lorillard. “The government can engage in as much anti-smoking advocacy as it chooses in whatever language and with whatever pictures it chooses; it cannot force those who lawfully sell tobacco to the public to carry that message, those words, and those pictures.”
A similar action was taken in Australia this June when Philip Morris filed a notice of claim with the Government of Australia.
According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoking is the major single cause of cancer mortality in the U.S., causing one in five deaths.
The tobacco industry’s response is certainly not unexpected. In my last post on this topic, I asked the question, “Will the new images have an impact on smoking rates?” Now I’m wondering if you think the cigarette manufacturers have a point. Do these graphic warning labels violate the First Amendment? Please take a moment to weigh in on the poll below.
Images from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services