Cigarette package fight not over yet
RICHMOND — The government is asking a federal appeals court to rehear a challenge to a Food and Drug Administration requirement that tobacco companies to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages to show that smoking can disfigure and kill people.
The Justice Department filed a petition on Tuesday asking for the full court to rehear the case after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington affirmed in August a lower court ruling blocking the mandate, saying it ran afoul of the First Amendment's free speech protections. However, the court rarely grants such appeals.
Some of the nation's largest tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds, sued to block the mandate to include warnings to show the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit lighting up. They argued that the proposed warnings went beyond factual information into anti-smoking advocacy. The government argued the photos of dead and diseased smokers are factual.
The nine graphic warnings proposed by the FDA include color images of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, and a plume of cigarette smoke enveloping an infant receiving a mother's kiss. These are accompanied by language that says smoking causes cancer and can harm fetuses. The warnings were to cover the entire top half of cigarette packs, front and back, and include the phone number for a stop-smoking hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Tobacco companies increasingly rely on their packaging to build brand loyalty and grab consumers — one of the few advertising levers left to them after the government curbed their presence in magazines, billboards and TV.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court panel wrote that the case raises “novel questions about the scope of the government's authority to force the manufacturer of a product to go beyond making purely factual and accurate commercial disclosures and undermine its own economic interest — in this case, by making ‘every single pack of cigarettes in the country (a) mini billboard' for the government's anti-smoking message.” The court wrote that the FDA “has not provided a shred of evidence” showing that the warnings will “directly advance” its interest in reducing the number of Americans who smoke.
But in its appeal seeking a full court rehearing, the government argued that the text of the warnings are “indisputably accurate” and the format, including the use of graphics, is tailored to the demand of a “market in which the vast majority of users become addicted to a lethal product before age 18.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Baltimore on edge: National Guardsmen take up positions
- Supreme Court hears historic same-sex marriage arguments
- Riot erupts in Baltimore after funeral for man hurt in police custody
- Study a surprise: Commercial bees unfazed by pesticides
- ‘Organic’ tag on water-raised produce raises ire
- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago dead at 78
- U.S. lowers fluoride in water; too much causing splotchy teeth
- Obamacare contraception ruling thrown out
- Top Tulsa sheriff’s aide quits under fire
- Man formally charged with murder of Indiana student