Federal Appeals Court Appears Unmoved By Tobacco Company Arguments in Ad Case

A Federal appeals court appeared unmoved Friday by tobacco industry arguments that the court should overrule a judgment that requires corrective ads about the dangers of smoking.

The tobacco companies want an order by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler overturned. In 2006, she ruled that Big Tobacco firms engaged in racketeering, and were likely to do so again in the future. She ordered tobacco companies to stop using terms like “light” and “low tar” to market cigarettes. She said she wanted the tobacco industry to pay for print and broadcast ads, but did not say what corrective statements must be included in them.

In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., upheld Kessler’s findings that major U.S. tobacco firms intentionally misled the public about the health hazards of cigarettes.

On Friday, the tobacco companies argued that a 2009 law that gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over the industry, including the power to require graphic cigarette warning labels, eliminated any reasonable change the companies would commit future violations of federal racketeering laws. They said FDA regulations made the need for corrective advertising unnecessary, according to the Associated Press.

One of the three judges on the appeal court panel told a tobacco company lawyer that the logic in their case “escapes me,” the AP reports. “Your client is here because they didn’t obey the law,” he added.

Some tobacco companies are challenging the FDA law in a separate case. In March, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon blocked the FDA’s requirement that tobacco companies add graphic warning labels to cigarette packages by September 2012. The Obama Administration appealed the ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard that appeal, but has not yet ruled on the case. Any decision is likely to be appealed further, and could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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