US court blocks graphic cigarette warnings

Cigarette packaging proposed by the FDA The images included a man on a ventilator, diseased lungs and dead bodies

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The US government cannot force tobacco firms to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages, an appeals court in Washington has ruled.

It said the government's plan undermined free speech in America.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had wanted to put nine pictures of dead and diseased smokers to convey the dangers of cigarettes.

But tobacco firms had argued that the images went beyond factual information and into anti-smoking advocacy.

The ruling comes as a number of other countries have ordered similar pictures to be placed on all cigarette packets.

Australia has gone a step further, banning even tobacco company logos from the cartons.

'Significant vindication'

The US Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier lower court ruling in a 2-1 decision.

It said the case raised "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".

The court said that in this case it was "by making every single pack of cigarettes in the country a mini billboard for the government's anti-smoking message".

It added that the FDA "has not provided a shred of evidence" that the images would directly advance its policy aimed at reducing the number of smokers in America.

The verdict was welcomed by tobacco companies, with Lorrilard Tobacco's describing it as "a significant vindication of First Amendment principles".

The FDA has so far made no public comment on whether it intends to appeal against the ruling in the US Supreme Court.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    No teenage boy would think it's cool to buy a pack of cigarettes with a photo & phrase on the front revealing smoking can cause impotence. A fact, not an agenda.

    Cigarettes are the only legal product that when used as the manufacturer intends, kills. Of course, slowly, and with higher addiction properties than even 20 years ago, this guarantees great profits.

    So who is my gov't protecting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The picture of a man on a ventilator with smoke coming out from a hole in his throat with the message, "Cigarette's are addictive" is completely off the mark. The picture does not show that cigarettes are addictive: that is something you have to extrapolate. The picture shows merely one of the possible consequences of smoking. The correct message should accompany it. No wonder the FDA lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    There is definitely a need to get to youngsters at the right age before the tobacco takes control - as Pandy said peer pressure and the allure of being a dude is a key factor.
    I think you're right to focus on the stench, maybe discoloured teeth and fingers to give it that 'dirty old man' vibe via humorous girlfriend fail adverts. Same approach with being dropped from the footie team maybe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Youngsters are more interested in their image at present, than possible future health problems.
    Perhaps the message should be: "Smokers stink"

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Having lost a father and grandfather to smoking induced cancer I feel better qualified than most to speak of this addiction.The only way to slow down or stop smoking is by pricing.£50 a pack "Smoking Tax" would seriously deter smokers.Labels are of no use whatever.And ban smoking in public.I have no wish to follow a smoker to be forced to inhale his toxic fumes.


Comments 5 of 7


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