August 28th, 2012

Court Strikes Graphic Cigarette Labels

Wall Street Journal

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down requirements for large graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, saying the government didn’t provide evidence that the labels would bring down smoking rates.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, said federal regulators fell short of meeting constitutional requirements for justifying the labeling rules. “The First Amendment requires the government not only to state a substantial interest justifying a regulation on commercial speech, but also to show that its regulation directly advances that goal,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote in the majority opinion.

The Food and Drug Administration “failed to present any data—much less the substantial evidence...showing that enacting their proposed graphic warnings will accomplish the agency’s stated objective of reducing smoking rates,” she added.

“This is a major victory,” said Floyd Abrams, an attorney at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP who represented Lorillard Inc., LO +0.06% one of the tobacco companies involved in the case. “It’s a significant First Amendment ruling.”

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