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Ear to the Ground

Big Tobacco Sues Over Graphic Labels

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Posted on Aug 17, 2011
Flickr / curran.kelleher (CC-BY)

Tobacco giants, wary of the effect new government-mandated warnings may have on cigarette smokers, filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, claiming that the labels are unconstitutional.

The labels, which feature graphic photos of diseased people and the phone number 1-800-QUIT-NOW, will be required to cover half the surface area of all cigarette packages by September 2012.

The lawsuit complains that the explicit message of the new labels violates the companies’ First Amendment rights.

Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment lawyer representing the tobacco companies, said the labels “essentially urge prospective purchasers not to buy” their lawful product. —BF


Abrams says the tobacco companies don’t have a problem with the written wording required by the latest FDA ruling.

“The government has lot of power to require warnings, but it doesn’t require half of a cigarette pack to scream out, ‘Don’t buy this product!,” the New York-based attorney says. “What is at issue is putting photographs of diseased people on every cigarette pack, include a phone number, and ask people to stop smoking. It’s the direct advocacy to not buy the product, as opposed to a straightforward warning.”

Abrams says it’s likely his clients will seek some sort of preliminary injunction against the warning labels before the statute goes into effect next year.

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By Craig, August 22, 2011 at 1:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why weren’t these tobacco co’s complaining when the government forced them to put chemicals in the cigarette papers (FSC smokes) and fail to warn the public they were ingesting carpet glue when they smoked the “fire safe compliant” cigarettes.

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By Grousefeather, August 18, 2011 at 6:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I find it interesting that the same people calling for tort reform in order to eliminate “frivolous” lawsuits are engaging in one themselves.

In a country with a modicum of morality tobacco companies would be dismantled and abolished.

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By christian96, August 18, 2011 at 12:52 am Link to this comment

TheThirdMan—-If people were following the teachings
of Jesus they would be denying self and loving
others.  Can you love others and sell them a
product that will ruin their health and eventually
kill them?  Quit smoking those cigarettes and see
if your thought processes clear up.

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By thethirdman, August 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment

Let’s not get too crazy here.  Cigarettes are still legal.  The same measures are not
being taken for other “health threats” like drinking and fast food.  For Christsake,
you’re all being exposed to nuclear radiation and massive amounts of toxins in
your food and water supply anyway.  Let’s focus on that.
I occasionally smoke.  These pictures will have no affect on my decision.  And it is
my decision, after all.  The government can’t seem to do anything worth while, but
hey, this showcases all their compassion and morality.
Christian96, you are a nutter.  Christians make the world a less livable place for
all.  Stop injecting that shit into every post.

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By TDoff, August 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

Big Tobacco is counting on the fact that when their case gets to the Supreme Court, SCOTUS will rule, 5 to 4, that it is unconstitutional to speak, write, or show the truth to the American consumer.

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By David, August 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Tobacco: the only product sold over the counter in the USA which has been proven to cause disease and death when used as directed. Go figure.

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By christian96, August 17, 2011 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

Not suprising that the lawyer representing “Big
Tobacco” would be from New York.  Those people
in New York just don’t get it. They can’t understand
why two high-jacked jets flew into the Twin Towers.
The lawyer said the labels essentially urge prospective purchasers not to buy their LAWFUL
product.  The only reason they are LAWFUL has a
direct correlation with the money poured into the
pockets of politicians in Washington. Oh, that’s
right, Washington was the other city hit by a
high-jacked plane.
My mother, father, and only two sibblings died as
a result of smoking cigarettes.  If I knew a good
lawyer I would sue the tobacco companies for all
I could get.  I’d give some to the chidren of my
sibblings and the rest to charity. However, a GOOD
lawyer is hard to find as I found out in Riverside,
California in 2004, when I needed a lawyer to help
my aunt struck down with Alzheimer’s disease. I
didn’t know a soul in Riverside.  I decided to ask
lawyers if they were Christian as I interviewed
them.  One guy, after a long pause, said, “I’m
spiritual.”  I thought, “Satan’s spiritual.” I
finally located an old fellow who told me he
was Christian.  I hired him.  He drug me along for
over two years until I finally got a letter from
him telling me he couldn’t represent me because
the California State Bar had put him on probation
in another case.  So much for Christian lawyers.
I could find a Christian used car salesman before
I could find a Christian lawyer.

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