Tobacco Companies File Lawsuit over Warning Labels

Four of the five largest tobacco producing companies of the USA, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, Commonwealth Brands, Liggett Group and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company are suing the U.S. federal government over a law which will require them to print government created warning labels on the package of their tobacco products.

The free speech complaint is directed towards a law created by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which requires larger and more prominent health warnings on the labels of tobacco products starting in September 2012.

The nine graphic images show among other things organs before and after the regular use of tobacco products as well an image of a dead body after a post mortem examination. Alongside the images, phrases are printed informing the reader that smoking can be deadly or that smoking harms children. Also posted on the labels is the number of a hotline that is meant to assist tobacco consumers in quitting. The warning label will take up 50% of the entire packaging and will cover the front, top and back.

The FDA argues that the images are the first change in cigarette marketing in 25 years and are therefore more than necessary to inform the modern consumer of the dangers of smoking. The images are to serve as a reminder of the great danger and health problems smoking causes. They are also a tool of the public policy of reducing the costs which smoke related diseases cause in the public health care system, as well as avoiding unnecessary smoking related deaths and prevent young people from starting to smoke. The FDA therefore believes the warnings will have a positive effect on public health.

The tobacco companies on the other side claim that the law violates their right to free speech, which according to them protects their freedom of deciding what to print on their labels. They also argue that the warnings do not simply convey the message of informing the consumer. Instead, the companies believe the labels are designed to evoke an emotional reaction and therefore are meant to “scare” consumers away from the tobacco products. Additionally, the tobacco companies claim that the organs and body on the pictures are made to look worse by sanitizing them and using actors. Furthermore, the companies complain that they will have to spent millions on altering their brand logos and change the layout of their packaging as well as invest in equipment to match the requirements of the FDA law.

Printing warning images on tobacco product packaging is already a part of public health strategies in Great Britain, Romania, Belgium and Lithuania. It remains to be seen what effect the new FDA law will have on consumers in the United States.

(c) Picture:

Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs