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Cigarettes, Cancer and the Law

This in from The New York Times: “A federal judge on Monday blocked a Food and Drug Administration requirement that tobacco companies put big new graphic warning labels on cigarette packages by next September.”

Throughout Europe, a continent known for its aggressive smoking habits, repulsive photographs of cancerous wounds and sores are on many cigarette packages. But in the United States, the birthplace of the Surgeon General’s “warning label,” the same methods are under legal scrutiny.

The judge ruled that the labels were not factual and required the companies to use cigarette packages as billboards for what he described as the government’s “obvious anti-smoking agenda!” The 29-page ruling was a setback for Congressional and F.D.A. efforts to bolster the warnings on tobacco packages. The agency has said they are the most significant change to health warnings in 25 years.

Calling the graphics fictional, the judge in the case made the following determination:

“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.

Are these images really violating the doctrine of free speech, like shouting fire in a crowded theater when there is no smoke nor fire (which is against the law)? Or are they legitimate labels warning against dangerously acknowledged consequences of real toxic smoke?

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