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Federal Judge Blocks Law Requiring Graphic Photos on Cigarette Packs


In a 29-page decision on Monday, US District Judge Richard J. Leon blocked the implementation of a law on graphic cigarette photos. It would’ve required tobacco companies to include explicit photos detailing the dangers of smoking on cigarette packages.

The 36 images proposed by the Food and Drug Administration include a picture of diseased lungs next to healthy lungs, a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his throat, and a male cadaver with chest staples down his torso.

Judge Leon said cigarette makers were likely to win a free-speech challenge against the proposed labels and that the photos seemed to be digitally enhanced or manipulated to make them “evoke emotion” and are not therefore “purely factual” as the government said.

“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, adding in a footnote, “At first blush, they appear to be more about shocking and repelling than warning.”

The five tobacco companies that challenged the proposed imagery were predictably pleased with the ruling, but anti-smoking activists called on the Justice Department to immediately appeal.

In a statement, Matthew L. Myers, the president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in part that studies have shown such graphic warnings are effective at “informing consumers about the health risks of smoking, discouraging children and other nonsmokers from starting to smoke, and motivating smokers to quit.”

[The New York Times]

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