|Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
In an 84-page ruling in Discount Tobacco & Lottery, Inc. et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (Docket No. 10-5234/5235), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld controversial FDA regulations mandating that tobacco companies display graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packages and advertisements.
As reported by the law blog of The Wall St. Journal, the appellate court decision written by Judge Eric Clay found the warnings "serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco." A half-dozen tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., allege their First Amendment speech rights are being abridged by the FDA regs, which are drawn from the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [H.R. 1256].
The Sixth Circuit ruling doesn't specifically address the grisly depictions in the warnings of blackened lungs and cadavers, but rather, upheld the validity of the law requiring the warnings appear on the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs. The appeals court struck down the use of color imagery in the warnings, handing the plaintiffs a victory of sorts.
United States District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Administration et al. (Case No. 1:11-cv-01482) issued a preliminary injunction preventing the FDA regs from taking effect that the government is appealing (see "TUOL" post 3/1/12).