U.S. Appeals Court Says Graphic Tobacco Labels OK
A Cincinnati-based U.S. appeals court ruled March 19 that requiring graphic cigarette warning labels does not violate the free speech guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
The labeling, required by the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act, was challenged by tobacco manufacturing companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., as well as other tobacco industry interests.
"The warning labels required by the act do not impose any restriction of plaintiffs' dissemination of speech," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said in a 2-1 ruling. "Instead the labels serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco."
The decision reached the opposite conclusion of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, DC, who ruled Feb. 29 that regulations requiring the graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging and advertising violate free-speech rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is scheduled to hear oral arguments April 10 on FDA’s consolidated appeals of two cases involving the graphic image/text cigarette warnings.
On March 9, the appeals court granted FDA’s motion to consolidate the agency’s appeal of the November 7, 2011 federal district court decision granting a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the graphic image/text regulation and on Feb. 29, the court said the new health warnings violate free speech protections under the U.S. Constitution.