U.S. Supreme Court hears case on graphic tobacco ads

The government yesterday defended the graphic labels and advertisements of tobacco, the use of pictures of rotting teeth and diseased lungs, accurate and appropriate, to warn consumers about the dangers of smoking.

The Food and Drug Administration has asked the Court of Appeal on the decision to cancel the lower court, saying that such labels are unconstitutional violation of free speech rights of tobacco companies.

Mr. Mark Stern, a lawyer from the Ministry of Justice represents the FDA, said that the label shows, for example, a person smoking through a hole in his throat, and was necessary to show the true dangers of smoking, including addiction. “Teenagers are known to underestimate their ability to resist drug use,” he told the United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia.

“He (the labels) accurately and realistically portray the message that it’s really exciting Yeah, (they) do.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 45 million American adults smoke cigarettes, which are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Congress passed a law in 2009, which gave FDA broad authority to regulate the tobacco industry, including the labeling regulation. The law requires that the warnings of colors is large enough to cover the top 50 percent of a pack of cigarettes in front and rear panels and the top 20 percent of print advertising.

FDA has released nine new warnings in June last year shall come into force in September this year, the first change in U.S. cigarette warning labels in 25 years. Cigarette packs carry the warning text is the U.S. health care.

Reynolds American, Lorillard, Liggett Group Commonwealth Brands, which owns Imperial Tobacco Group in the UK, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco challenge to the rule, arguing that would force them to engage in anti-smoking propaganda against their own legal products.

“You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize that the government is doing here: to tell people:” Quitting smoking now, “said Mr. Noel Francisco, a lawyer Jones Day in Washington, DC, which represents tobacco companies.

According to him, the label goes beyond the simple facts about smoking, rather than trying to disgust or rebellion of the people’s cigarettes.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon sided with tobacco companies in the decision in February say the warning signs were too large, and the government could use other tools to prevent smoking, such as raising taxes or using factual information on the label, not the horrible images.

One of the three appeal judges who heard the case yesterday also appeared on the question of what the government is going too far in trying to warn people about smoking.

“Can you have a text that says” Stop, if you buy it, you idiot? ”

And Judge Raymond Randolph thought that the government could also place warning labels on the car doors with the terrible images of road accidents to warn people about the danger of speeding.

Nevertheless, Randolph did not agree with the tobacco companies, saying that a single case, which shows the revelation only to provide commercial information that, does not stop using the product. The judge will decide the case later, but any decision can be appealed to the future and may eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court, especially in the tobacco law has led to divergent decisions in lower courts. REUTERS

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