Appeals court upholds graphic cigarette warning labels

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, March 19, 2012 15:24 EDT
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An FDA warning label that will likely appear on cigarette packages later this year.
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The U.S. government’s efforts to place shockingly graphic warning labels on tobacco products was given a boost by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Kentucky on Monday, which found that the labels are constitutional because they do not restrict tobacco companies’ free speech.

The court’s ruling came after the nation’s largest tobacco companies sued and claimed that mandating graphic images on cigarette packaging restricts their constitutional rights. The court disagreed, saying that warning labels do not restrict the corporations’ ability to speak.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its plans last June, with the intent of the rule taking effect in September 2012. The images include a picture of a lifeless corpse that has been stitched up, a person’s mouth ravaged by cancer, a man smoking through a hole in his trachea and a blackened lung.

The labels were explicitly authorized by a broad bipartisan majority in Congress, as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 (PDF). Kathleen Sebelius, who leads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, called the program “the toughest and most effective tobacco health warnings in this country’s history.”

Though the government won its case in Kentucky, a district judge in Washington, D.C. blocked the labels last year and later declared them unconstitutional. That case was expected to be heard by the D.C. Court of Appeals next month.

An analysis published earlier this month by the National Cancer Institute claimed that tobacco control policies, including anti-smoking educational campaigns, prevented nearly 800,000 deaths in the U.S. from 1975-2000.

In addition to the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently launched a shocking new anti-smoking ad campaign called “Tips From Former Smokers,” featuring people whose bodies and lives have been ravaged and even destroyed by first and second hand exposure to tobacco smoke.

The FDA says that health effects from smoking tobacco kill over 1,200 Americans every day.

The video below is from the FDA, published August 2, 2011.

(H/T: Politico)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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