Graphic Cigarette Warning Label Upheld by U.S. Appeals Court

Requiring graphic cigarette warning labels doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution’s free speech guarantee, a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court ruled.

The labeling, made mandatory by the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, was challenged by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJREYZ) and Lorillard Tobacco Co. and other makers and sellers of tobacco products as unlawfully compelling speech.

“The warning labels required by the act do not impose any restriction of plaintiffs’ dissemination of speech,” the court said. “Instead the labels serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco.”

The 2-1 ruling today follows a Feb. 29 decision by a federal judge in Washington who said the rule does violate the cigarette makers’ free-speech rights. The U.S. is appealing that decision.

The appellate case is Discount Tobacco City & Lottery Inc. v. U.S., 10-5234 and 10-5235, U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (Cincinnati). The Washington case is R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 11-cv-1482, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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