The government can enforce graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, a federal court ruled on Monday. The argument by tobacco companies that the labels violated the Constitution’s free speech guarantee was upheld on February 29 by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., but the government’s appeal of that decision won in a 2-1 ruling in a Cincinnati court on Monday, Bloomberg reported.
The new law is part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that will require companies to put images of people affected by smoking-related disease, and mouth and gum damage linked to smoking, on all cigarette packs, beginning in September.
RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company (NYSE:RAI) had filed the lawsuit, while supporting organizations included Discount Tobacco City & Lottery Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Company (NYSE:LO), National Tobacco Company, Commonwealth Brands, and American Snuff Company (NYSE:RAI).
“The warning labels required by the act do not impose any restriction of plaintiffs’ dissemination of speech,” the court said. “Instead the labels serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco.”
The same case addressed the issue of the government’s plans to not let tobacco companies use color or imagery in their advertisements. The court ruled in the companies’ favor on that matter, saying the regulation was “vastly overboard,” according to a Wall Street Journal report.
“We’re pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice has already appealed the earlier ruling and is working to preserve this critical requirement of the landmark 2009 law giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products,” Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement.
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