- Patriot Act author on James Clapper: Fire, prosecute him
- Russia P.M. Medvedev: No amnesty for political prisoners
- Michigan GOP Senate hopeful reminds government is the ‘servant’
- Christmas, by Congress: Members mull a 15-cent tax on trees
- U.S. unemployment falls to five-year low of 7 percent; 203K jobs added
- World mourns Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life; burial set for Dec. 15
- Bill O’Reilly reminds: Nelson Mandela ‘was a communist’
- John Boehner says GOP should support gay candidates: ‘I do’
- Grass-Whopper: Pan-fried cricket burgers go over big in New York City
- CDC sees measles spike and ‘failure to vaccinate’
Cigarette makers sue to block new graphic warnings
Can Uncle Sam legally force tobacco companies to put images of corpses, diseased body parts and tracheotomy patients on their cigarette packages?
Attorneys for five tobacco companies told a federal judge Wednesday that such radical "rebranding" was unconstitutional and costly, and would cause them irreparable injury.
Government cannot make businesses act as an "unwilling mouthpiece" for its advocacy campaigns, said R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. attorney Noel J. Francisco. He asked U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in the District of Columbia to issue a preliminary injunction to block the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cigarette-packaging rules from going into effect until 15 months after a final judgment on the issue.
But lawyers for the FDA countered that their new packaging rules were fully legal, and fulfilled a congressional mandate to step up efforts to deter smoking in youth and encourage smokers to quit.
"This is a health warning" and "warnings are permissible" under the law, said Department of Justice lawyer Mark B. Stern.
The FDA warnings — which pair dramatic images, such as a male corpse with a stitched-up chest and a man smoking through a hole in his throat, with texts such as "Warning: Smoking can kill you." and "Warning: Cigarettes are addictive." — will make important new statements to Americans, said Mr. Stern. "It's the image that gets the attention."
The court should not delay implementation of the cigarette-packaging changes because that would be detrimental to public health, added Mr. Stern. Tobacco is "not an ordinary product," he said. More than 440,000 persons die of smoking-related illnesses each year and 4,000 children start experimenting with smoking every day.
Judge Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said he would try to issue his ruling no later than November.
Tobacco companies are required to begin using the FDA's nine images and warnings on the top halves of all cigarette packages, and in all cigarette advertising, by September 2012.
In the three-hour hearing, Judge Leon posed questions about cigarette-packaging experiences in other countries, whether explicit warnings actually affect behavior, and whether Congress considered the tobacco companies' First Amendment rights to free speech when it passed its 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the legislation that prompted the FDA labeling rules.
Where do "factual, noncontroversial" warnings cross the line into "advocacy," Judge Leon asked several times.
Mr. Francisco argued that the image of a male corpse with stitches in the chest is not an accurate portrayal of the effects of smoking, because medical examiners don't typically do autopsies if someone dies of lung cancer. He also objected to the image of a tracheotomy patient, saying, "That is simply not true in the vast majority of cases."
Mr. Stern argued that all the FDA images show the effects of cigarettes, and that just because an image is disturbing doesn't mean it is inaccurate. The nine images, which include a set of diseased lungs and a mouth with discolored teeth and an ulcerated lip, are necessary because they illuminate several warnings, he added. The goal is to get people "to notice the message."
The five companies — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands Inc., Liggett Group LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. — are also seeking summary judgment against the new rules. That will be handled in a later hearing, Judge Leon said.
A similar cigarette-packaging case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor. Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
- Panel seeks 'surveillance' system for gay blood donors
- Pregnancies decline overall, up among older women
- Embryonic stem cell research falls out of favor as scientists go ethical
- With new HIV research, FDA may let gay men donate blood
- HHS report shows a decrease in blood supply but also a drop in demand
Latest Blog Entries
- Pro-life, stem-cell bill signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
- N. Dakota lawmakers approve tough abortion bill
- Pope Benedict XVI's successor should allow priests to get a new title: Husband, poll finds
- House votes to reject Obama welfare shift
- Report: Two out of three Democrats support gay marriage
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- PRUDEN: British press horrified as London's new mayor dares to proclaim the truth
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- New battlefront emerges in war between Republicans, tea party
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Obama administration issues permits for wind farms to kill more eagles
- Budget negotiators look to federal workers for benefit concessions
- Obama downplays IRS scandal, blames Obamacare rollout on 'outdated' agencies
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
A politically conservative and morally liberal Hebrew alpha male hunts left-wing viper
This column will cover anything that has anything remotely to do with the game of baseball, from the game itself to mid-summer trades to offseason moves.
Entertainment News and Reviews from Washington, D.C. and beyond.
Political satirist and Christian apologist Bob Siegel discusses religion and politics.
White House pets gone wild!