For Cigarette Makers, Limits to Free Speech
Butt out is the message from four of the five largest cigarette manufacturers who have filed suit in a Washington, D.C., federal court challenging new FDA regulations that require them to print nine graphic images on their cigarette packaging.
Under the FDA rule, the images must be printed in color and displayed on the top 50 percent of the both the front and back panels of every pack. Grim news has to cover the top 20 percent of all printed cigarette advertising. In addition, the FDA says, every pack of cigarettes must contain the words “QUIT-NOW.” And there is an 800 quit smoking hotline number that has to be there too.
It takes a lot for an industry that has been trying to fend off further FDA regulation if not outright prohibition to tangle with a tough public health campaign. But, led by the famous First Amendment litigator Floyd Abrams, the tobacco industry has decided to risk the wrath of the FDA and the antismoking lobby. With this suit they are crying “no mas” to any depictions of people smoking through their throats, wearing oxygen masks, holes in their lips, corpses, choking babies, rotting teeth, and blackened lungs gracing their packaging.
With smokers confined to tiny claustrophobic huts in airports, cigarettes being taxed into the stratosphere, and cities banning smoking indoors and outdoors, can Big Tobacco possibly have a case? Legally – maybe. Ethically – no.
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