Federal Appeals Court Upholds Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld most of a law allowing the U.S. government to regulate tobacco products, including requiring graphic warning labels on cigarette packages.

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court decision that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to regulate tobacco, and the cigarette warning labels do not violate tobacco companies’ free speech rights, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The appeals court also upheld the lower court’s ruling that the tobacco industry can continue using color in their advertising.
A federal judge last month ruled that the proposed labels do violate companies’ free speech rights. The Obama Administration has appealed that ruling. A hearing is scheduled for April at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the article notes.

The labels include graphic images of the consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs and rotting teeth. The FDA wants the disturbing pictures to cover at least half of the front and back of a cigarette package. The FDA also said the images must take up to at least 20 percent of each cigarette ad. The new cigarette labels are a result of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products.

According to the newspaper, many legal experts think key provisions of the tobacco law will be decided by the Supreme Court.

The anti-smoking group the American Legacy Foundation said in a news release, “This decision stands as an important step forward in the effort to protect Americans from the deadly ravages of tobacco. But the fight is not over. The tobacco industry has billions of dollars to spend on marketing their products and we fully expect that it will continue to go to court to protect these practices.”

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