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Icky images will stay off cigarette packages, but they could be recycled for a public health campaign.
Monday, March 25, 2013
For now, the constitutional fight over graphic warnings about the dangers of cigarettes has disappeared. The tobacco industry’s need to hook young smokers has not.
So it’s back to the drawing board.
The Food and Drug Administration has given up the court fight to put gruesome images of disease-ravaged smokers on cigarette packs — simple truth in labeling, the government figures, for an addictive product responsible for almost 450,000 deaths a year in the U.S.
Tobacco companies sued and won, though, claiming the FDA’s proposed labels violated their free-speech rights. Lower courts agreed, saying regulators had strayed into government advocacy, and the FDA — facing an April 5 Supreme Court filing deadline to appeal — has folded.
And the long rule-making process begins anew. In the intervening years, while manufacturers are busy branding cigarettes to lure a next generation of nicotine addicts, maybe a public health campaign is in order. Those abandoned FDA images would play to adolescents’ heightened sense of drama:
“Pictures they don’t want you to see!” “Too gruesome to land on store shelves!” “Banned! The nightmare you’ll try to forget — till it’s too late!”
Only, these posters would be true. Bummer.
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