Judge Blocks FDA Graphic Label
Judge Says Labels Violate Free-Speech
March 8, 2012. A federal judge has blocked the Food and Drug Administration's attempt to move forward with plans to introduce graphic labels that would cover half of a cigarette pack.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said today that the labels violate free-speech rights under the First Amendment. The labels were slated to debut Sept. 22.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Inc. were among five tobacco manufacturers that filed a lawsuit against the FDA in August challenging the constitutionality of the mandated labels, which would cover the top 20 percent of advertisements.
The opinion follows a Nov. 7 opinion by Leon in which he granted the manufacturers' request for a preliminary injunction in a strongly worded rebuttal of the FDA's initiative.
Leon wrote in November "it is abundantly clear from viewing these images that the emotional response they were crafted to induce is calculated to provoke the viewer to quit, or never to start smoking - an objective wholly apart from disseminating purely factual and uncontroversial information."
In Wednesday's 19-page opinion, Leon wrote "the government has failed to carry both its burden of demonstrating a compelling interest and its burden of demonstrating that the rule if narrowly tailored to achieve a constitutionally permissible form of compelled commercial speech."