Cigarette Companies Claim Graphic Labels Violate First Amendment
Five of the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claiming First Amendment violations. The lawsuit challenges the new regulations that will go into effect in September 2012, claiming that the graphic images depicting health risks of smoking that will be required to accompany each cigarette package and advertisement are in violation of the First Amendment. While none of the plaintiffs are based in Utah, every attorney in Utah should be eager to see what happens in this First Amendment case.
The First Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
First Amendment veteran attorney Floyd Abrams of Cahill, Gordon & Reindel is representing the tobacco companies which include R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands, Inc., Liggett Group LLC, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc.
“It violates the First Amendment to require the manufacturer of a lawful product to be required to use half of its package essentially to urge people not to buy the product,” Abrams said in a statement made earlier this week.” The issue is whether the government can do that and we think that the First Amendment bars anything like that sort of compelled speech.”
Although the Food and Drug Administration will not comment on pending litigation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made a statement saying, “These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking.”
The complaint was filed in the US District Court in Washington DC. The companies filing the complaint point out that they’ve never opposed the warnings regulations before because prior to unveiling the new warnings, the warnings were based on factual information. The current warnings are said to, “cross the line into governmental anti-smoking advocacy.”
Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, the FDA created nine new written warnings that list a phone number for a quitting hotline and are accompanied by color pictures of real people and body organs.
The new regulations will go into effect in September 2012. The FDA claims that the new warnings are needed to encourage adults to quit smoking and prevent children from starting.
If you have questions regarding your First Amendment rights, or any other rights you are entitled to under the United States Constitution, and would like to consult with an attorney in Utah, please contact Shumway Van & Hansen. Contact an attorney in Utah by calling, 801-216-8885, or by visiting our website, www.shumwayvan.com.