WASHINGTON — Friday, a 2-1 decision by a U.S. appeals court ruled that tobacco companies do not have to comply with Federal Drug Administration mandates requiring graphic depictions of health risks on product packaging and advertising.
In a suit filed last year against the FDA, Liggett Group, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco and Commonwealth Brands claimed the mandates violated their free speech rights under the First Amendment, and estimated the cost of compliance at about $20 million.
The gruesome color images, portraying diseased lungs and other harmful effects of smoking, were deemed “unabashed attempts to evoke emotion” designed to “browbeat consumers.” The images would cover the top half of package fronts and backs, and the top 20 percent of advertisements.
In her majority opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote, “These inflammatory images … cannot rationally be viewed as pure attempts to convey information to consumers.” The FDA is expected to appeal.