A U.S. District Court judge tossed out a federal mandate on Wednesday that would have required tobacco companies to include new, graphic warning labels on the front of cigarette packs, ruling it violates the First Amendment. The measure was included in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act enacted in 2009, which grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of cigarettes.
“Today’s ruling ignores the overwhelming, decades-long need for strong cigarette warning labels and allows Big Tobacco to proceed ’business as usual,’ continuing to promote its highly addictive and deadly products,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in a press release.
The law would have required nine new written warnings to be accompanied by dramatic images depicting the life-threatening health consequences of smoking such as a pair of diseased lungs next to a pair of healthy lungs, a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat and an image of a body on an autopsy table.
In his ruling, federal Judge Richard Leon said the warnings are not “factual or accurate.” In the case of the autopsy image, Leon stated that it isn’t accurate because there is no evidence to support the notion that smoking leads to autopsies.
Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the new warnings serve the compelling goal of reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use, which kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in health care expenditures each year.
Weigh in. Do you think the warning labels are effective and could encourage smokers to quit – or prevent first-time smokers? Or do they violate free speech?