The White House isn’t giving up on plans to force cigarette companies to print gruesome images on their own cigarette packets, even after a D.C.-based federal judge shot down the plan as an “impermissible expropriation of a company’s advertising space for government advocacy.”
In response, the White House’s health-sector division defended its effort to seize the companies’ property and suggested it would appeal the verdict.
“This administration is determined to do everything we can to warn young people about the dangers of smoking. … We are confident that efforts to stop these important warnings from going forward will ultimately fail,” read the Feb. 29 statement from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Smoking “remains the leading cause of preventable death in America [and] this public health initiative will be an effective tool in our efforts to stop teenagers from starting in the first place and taking up this deadly habit,” claimed the statement.
Cigar-sellers and smokers who fear they are next in line for punitive regulations oppose the government’s controversial plan to stigmatize smoking. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, set the stage for those regulations.
The warnings were to cover the upper half of each cigarette box and one-fifth of cigarette-advertising space. The suit was brought by cigarette makers, whose resources were being drafted by the government to counter the companies’ own advocacy. (RELATED: Cigar-lovers’ industry unite to snuff out FDA regulatory agenda)
The garish images on the cigarette packets were “neither designed to protect the consumer from confusion or deception, nor to increase consumer awareness of smoking risks,” said Judge Richard Leon, who was nominated by George. W. Bush in 2001.
“Rather, they were calculated to evoke a strong emotional response calculated to provoke the viewer to quit or never start smoking,” and therefore are intended for impermissible “government advocacy” via private property rather than permissible “constitutionally permissible dissemination of factual information,” Leon concluded.
The judge’s decision has no impact on Obama’s health care reform law, which the Supreme Court will review in March.