FDA abandoning that legal battle over gruesome cigarette labels

posted at 8:41 pm on March 19, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

A couple years back, the federal government via the Food and Drug Administration took it upon themselves to spearhead a brand-new marketing campaign for tobacco companies, suggesting that they plaster their cigarette packages with a certain selection of rather graphic images: How about, say, a picture of a man exhaling smoke through a tracheotomy, or perhaps the tagged toe of a dead human body?

But of course, when I say “marketing campaign” and “suggesting,” what I really mean is “regulatory effort” and “mandating” –  all a part of the government’s constant vigilance in saving us from ourselves, no matter what constitutional rights they have to throw under the bus.

Last year, however, a federal appeals court ruled that regulators had insufficient justification for sidestepping the First Amendment — and the government had until right about now to decide whether or not they wanted to take the fight all the way to the highest court in the land. The AP reports:

The U.S. government is abandoning a legal battle to require that cigarette packs carry a set of large and often macabre warning labels depicting the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit.

Instead, the Food and Drug Administration will go back to the drawing board and create labels to replace those that included images of diseased lungs and the sewn-up corpse of a smoker, according to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder obtained by The Associated Press. The government had until Monday to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision upholding a ruling that the requirement violated First Amendment free speech protections.

“In light of these circumstances, the Solicitor General has determined … not to seek Supreme Court review of the First Amendment issues at the present time,” Holder wrote in a Friday letter to House Speaker John Boehner notifying him of the decision.

Never fear, nanny-state crusaders: They’ll be back. The FDA reaffirmed their commitment to “undertake research to support a new rulemaking consistent with the Tobacco Control Act” and design some new, more legal-ish labels, but at least this particular limit on commercial-speech regulation lives to fight another day.

It isn’t exactly that I have any particular love in my heart for tobacco companies, but there are a million and one products and behaviors out there that all carry varying degrees of health and safety risks — in which we all choose to engage anyway, as well-acquainted as we generally are with those associated risks. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I prefer to keep the federal government on a short leash.


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How about similar graphic graphics outside of abortion clinics?
Nah. That would be too intimidating…

locomotivebreath1901 on March 19, 2013 at 8:44 PM

And it only cost how many hundreds of millions?

Jeddite on March 19, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Just got back from vacation in the bay islands off the coast of Honduras – all their cigarettes have this. On the Marlboro Golds, the front is an old man with a trach-hole, and on the back is a dead rat. At the US$$ equivalent of $22/carton, I’ll take the graphic pix every day of the week.

King B on March 19, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Why just smokes?

Why not bloody car crash scenes on liquor bottles? Or a smashed toothless face on a box of hockey pucks? The potential list of “graphic warning labels” on everyday stuff is endless.

HotAirian on March 19, 2013 at 8:56 PM

I just fried up some French fries in lard. Trans fat free. I thought they tasted like freedom. Freedom fries would be a catchy name.

tmitsss on March 19, 2013 at 8:57 PM

Just came in from having a smoke..

What are we talking about…

Oh..

Today I saw a blind man smoking..

Maybe a Braille package?

Electrongod on March 19, 2013 at 9:01 PM

How about similar graphic graphics outside of abortion clinics?
Nah. That would be too intimidating…

locomotivebreath1901 on March 19, 2013 at 8:44 PM

Heh.

My first thought was put a warning label on forks.

kim roy on March 19, 2013 at 9:02 PM

Wait…smoking is bad for your health?

Fezzik on March 19, 2013 at 9:04 PM

How about billboards featuring bullet-riddled bodies as one approaches any given urban area, such as Washington, D.C., Detroit or Chicago?

Rational Thought on March 19, 2013 at 9:04 PM

So I guess Mayor Bloomberg will have to nix the idea of putting Oprah on the side of the Big Gulps?

hillsoftx on March 19, 2013 at 9:06 PM

… just as Commandante Bloombergo tries to promote laws against displaying cigarettes in NYC.

Nice timing.

chimney sweep on March 19, 2013 at 9:08 PM

So I guess Mayor Bloomberg will have to nix the idea of putting Oprah on the side of the Big Gulps?

hillsoftx on March 19, 2013 at 9:06 PM

Most definitely..
As it would take two Big Gulps to properly portray Oprah’s image..
With clarity…of course..

Electrongod on March 19, 2013 at 9:09 PM

You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I prefer to keep the federal government on a short leash.

Me, I prefer to keep it locked and chained in a rat-infested dungeon, smelling of human waste.

TXUS on March 19, 2013 at 9:10 PM

You just wait, gun boxes will have photos of the lost children from Newtown printed on them. Laugh now, but remember my words.

Bishop on March 19, 2013 at 9:15 PM

You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I prefer to keep the federal government on a short leash.

Me, I prefer to keep it locked and chained in a rat-infested dungeon, smelling of human waste.

TXUS on March 19, 2013 at 9:10 PM

What have rats done to you?

;)

kim roy on March 19, 2013 at 9:17 PM

You just wait, gun boxes will have photos of the lost children from Newtown printed on them. Laugh now, but remember my words.

Bishop on March 19, 2013 at 9:15 PM

If only someone at Sandy Hook…
Had one of these boxes at their side..
Better yet..
Had it’s contents at their side..

Electrongod on March 19, 2013 at 9:18 PM

Get these freaks out of our lives, our businesses, and our governemnt.

pat on March 19, 2013 at 9:27 PM

How about warning labels on the doors of gay bars, showing people that have died from AIDS?

slickwillie2001 on March 19, 2013 at 9:30 PM

HOW ABOUT A WARNING LABEL FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

GarandFan on March 19, 2013 at 9:34 PM

Smoking is slow motion suicide. Nicotine is an addictive drug. Therefor smokers are mentally ill drug addicts who under universal background checks will no longer be able to possess firearms… Bloomberg’s dream.

meci on March 19, 2013 at 9:34 PM

How about warning labels on the doors of gay bars, showing people that have died from AIDS?

slickwillie2001 on March 19, 2013 at 9:30 PM

…oh now you’ve done it!…*runs*

KOOLAID2 on March 19, 2013 at 9:54 PM

HOW ABOUT A WARNING LABEL FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

GarandFan on March 19, 2013 at 9:34 PM

Absolutely! I’ve said this many times.

Every new bill that expands government should have graphic pictures of what can happen when governments get too big and powerful. I’m thinking of some countries in the 1930′s.

Oh, hey.. how about warning labels on politicians? Every time one of them gives a speech.. graphic warnings flash across the screen “Failed Bar Exam!” “Impeached!” “Accused Rapist” “Tax Cheat” etc. Just pick your label.

JellyToast on March 19, 2013 at 10:05 PM

Put Nanzi Pelosi’s mug on packages of UnLucky Strikes.

That’ll scare ‘em away faster than the per pack cost.

viking01 on March 19, 2013 at 10:24 PM

…are they going to put JugEars on the package?

KOOLAID2 on March 19, 2013 at 10:35 PM

Maybe they should put pictures of compound fractures and broken necks on skis and snowboards.

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on March 19, 2013 at 10:38 PM

Damn! I really, really wanted to buy some smokes and use the packs as trading cards.

madmonkphotog on March 19, 2013 at 11:03 PM

Smoking is healthier than fascism.

Axion on March 19, 2013 at 11:06 PM

there are a million and one products and behaviors out there that all carry varying degrees of health and safety risks — in which we all choose to engage anyway

Be patient. The government will get to those eventually.

The Rogue Tomato on March 19, 2013 at 11:38 PM

FDA abandoning that legal battle over gruesome cigarette labels

Too bad…teens were looking forward to giggling over the pics and collecting them.

Dr. ZhivBlago on March 19, 2013 at 11:45 PM

What? Those are warning labels? I thought it was a contest, like “collect all 10 and get a free pack.”

ss396 on March 19, 2013 at 11:47 PM

How about getting government out of the business of regulating who gets to GROW tobacco? And since it’s so terrible, maybe stop the taxes on it and just make it a controlled substance!

/s

skeeter on March 20, 2013 at 12:57 AM

I could not believe for a second that the government would abandon something like this. I think it has more to do with them not wanting this particular supreme court to weigh in on it, thereby solidifying some limiting precedent. Better to drop it now so they can hold on to the theoretical power and hopefully when it comes up in court again there will be a more liberal supreme court.

hisfrogness on March 20, 2013 at 2:35 AM

Reminds me of that old Denis Leary joke about how they could put cigarettes in a black pack with a skull and crossbones on the front and call them TUMORS, and it would still not deter smokers from quitting.

So what inspired the FDA to even think this boneheaded waste of money of theirs was going to work?

pilamaye on March 20, 2013 at 7:48 AM

I prefer to keep the federal government on a short leash.

I prefer them in a really small cage.

Oh, hey.. how about warning labels on politicians? Every time one of them gives a speech…

JellyToast on March 19, 2013 at 10:05 PM

How about “His lips are moving! You know what that means!”

My other thought with this was that it might bring the cigarette case back into style. Take the cigs out of the pack and toss the pack. Pull *your* cigarettes from a stylish metal or leather case.

(I bought a leather one ages ago – when I still flew – to keep my gum in. A gum pack will disintegrate pretty quickly in a flight suit pocket, and then you have sticks of gum everywhere.)

GWB on March 20, 2013 at 9:06 AM

How about similar graphic graphics outside of abortion clinics?
Nah. That would be too intimidating…

locomotivebreath1901 on March 19, 2013 at 8:44 PM

I drive by them just about every day. They even have them lighted during the winter. The biggest, about 3 by 6 feet shows some sort of dismembered baby. There are a couple of other freestanding displays but most are 2 by 2 foot pictures held by protesters.

The problem I see with any of these types of pictures is that there is no context. Are the pictures really of people that died from smoking? Is the dismembered baby a result of a wanted abortion or was it removed for another reason? The other problem is that there is no personal attachment to the pictures so most people just filter them out like they do many negative things like dead animals on the road etc.

Dr. Frank Enstine on March 20, 2013 at 9:11 AM

So what inspired the FDA to even think this boneheaded waste of money of theirs was going to work?

pilamaye on March 20, 2013 at 7:48 AM

I think the Europeans did it so it must be the right thing to do.

Dr. Frank Enstine on March 20, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Smoking is healthier than fascism.

Axion on March 19, 2013 at 11:06 PM

Ok, first I want to steal this…but change it to “Smoking is safer than Communism”.

By the way, Jug ears is now a “Commutarian”, Van Jones said so…

Bulletchaser on March 20, 2013 at 10:52 AM

What the matter, barry doesn’t like seeing them when he has a smoke?

lonestar1 on March 20, 2013 at 3:53 PM