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It looks like cigarette labels won’t be getting a makeover, after all – at least not anytime soon.
The Associated Press (via USA Today) reports U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has stopped the Food and Drug Administration requirement that cigarette packages feature graphic depictions of the consequences of smoking. In his ruling, he concluded that cigarette makers would likely succeed in a lawsuit claiming the images violate the First Amendment. Therefore, the FDA will have to wait until the lawsuit is resolved – which could take years.
Should the lawsuit fail, the FDA would require cigarette makers to cover the entire top half of cigarette packs, front and back, with a rotating set of images depicting smoking hazards, including a man smoking a cigarette through a tracheotomy tube, diseased lungs, stained teeth and secondhand smoke in a baby’s face. The label would also prominently display a number for a stop-smoking hotline.
In a September hearing, Leon questioned the Justice Department about whether the images went beyond showing health risks and into advocacy – a potential infringement of free speech rights. The Justice Department responded that the images, coupled with written warnings, were designed specifically to communicate the dangers of smoking.