Smokers will not be forced to confront graphic images on cigarette packs depicting the potentially insalubrious side-effects of their addiction, a federal judge ruled today. You'll recall that the FDA, carrying out legislation enacted by Congress, was poised to require cigarette packages to be sold with a variety of graphic anti-smoking warnings. But five major tobacco companies filed a lawsuit, and today U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that it's likely they'll win—so he's ordered the FDA hold off on requiring the warnings until that legal battle is settled.
"It is abundantly clear from viewing these images that the emotional response they were crafted to induce is calculated to provoke the viewer to quit, or never to start smoking—an objective wholly apart from disseminating purely factual and uncontroversial information," Judge Leon wrote in a 29-page opinion obtained by the Associated Press. He also pointed out that some of the images were altered photographs intended to evoke emotion. And you know tobacco companies can't allow cigarettes to lose their cool by associating with something as unglamorous emotion.
The judge also decided the size of the labels could be unconstitutional, because they would constitute 20 percent of cigarette advertising, amounting to a "mini-billboard" for the agency's "obvious anti-smoking agenda." Matthew Myers, president Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, is calling on the Obama administration to appeal the ruling, and released a statement saying, "Studies around the world and evidence presented to the FDA have repeatedly shown that large, graphic warnings, like those adopted by the FDA, are most effective at informing consumers about the health risks of smoking, discouraging children and other nonsmokers from starting to smoke, and motivating smokers to quit."