Federal Court Questions Graphic Marketing Mandates for Cigarette Packaging: As Big Tobacco Screams “Free-Speech Violation,” Panel Now Debating Whether Disturbing Package Imagery Is Genuinely About Safety — Or Whether It's Anti-Smoking Advocacy

After the government slapped Big Tobacco with demanding new marketing mandates last year, a federal appeals court is now considering the constitutionality of requiring large graphic photos on cigarette packs to show that smoking can harm or kill smokers. After some of the nation’s largest tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds, sued to block the mandate, a three-judge panel this week questioned whether the government’s proposed warnings cross from factual information into anti-smoking advocacy. The nine proposed graphic warnings include color images of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat and a plume of cigarette smoke enveloping an infant receiving a mother’s kiss. In February, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon agreed — he blocked the requirement, saying it ran afoul of the First Amendment’s free speech protections. At this week’s hearing, judges questioned how far the government could go, such as putting graphic warnings on cars that "speed kills," an AP news release reports. One of the panelists, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, asked if the government could mandate a cigarette warning that said, "Stop! If you buy this product, you are a moron," or "Smokers are idiots." Brown also questioned if the government was on a path to put warnings on other legal products. "Where does this stop?," she asked, the AP reports. Lawyers for the tobacco companies made a similar argument in their brief. They superimposed the FDA tobacco image of a cadaver onto a McDonald’s bag with the warning that fatty foods may cause heart disease, and the FDA’s image of a premature baby in an incubator on a bottle of alcohol with a warning that drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects. They also showed a Hershey’s chocolate bar with half the wrapper covered by a picture of a mouth of rotting teeth and a warning that candy causes tooth decay. Justice Department attorney Mark Stern said those comparisons trivialized an important issue. "Addiction really means addiction," he said, and it was not like eating candy, according to the AP report.

Some other images on the revised packaging are accompanied by language that says smoking causes cancer and can harm fetuses. The warnings were to cover the entire top half of cigarette packs, front and back, and include the phone number for a stop-smoking hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, the AP reports.

A third judge on the panel, Judith W. Rogers, didn’t ask any questions of the Obama administration, but she grilled Noel J. Francisco, a lawyer for tobacco companies. Rogers asked Francisco if he was challenging the accuracy of the FDA’s text warnings, such as smoking causing cancer and heart disease. The lawyer said he was not, but that the government was going beyond mere facts by including a phone number to quit. "The government is trying to send a powerful message: Quit smoking now," he said. When the message tells people to live a certain way, it crosses the line from facts to advocacy, he argued, reports the article by AP writer Frederic J. Frommer.

PR Biz Update PR Agency News PR People Marketing Trends
B2B content marketing, Content marketing, content marketing initiatives, Doug Winter, Lead generation, Marketing, MarketingProfs, personalized content marketing, Pr, Public relations, Purchase funnel, sales enablement process, Seismic
Content Can Close: New Report Finds Fewer Than One in Five Content Marketers Have a Complete Sales Enablement Process in Place

B2B content marketing for lead generation is personalized and mature—but it’s...

A businessman holding a tablet pc computer with the projection screen of a graphs and diagrams. Business concept.
Inside the C-Suite: CFOs Plan to Navigate Economic Uncertainty by Harnessing the Power of Big Data, New Study Reveals

While chief financial officers remain worried about growing economic volatility, the...

brand origin, brand presence, consumer connection, global consumers, local vs. global brands, Marketing, national pride, Nielsen, Personalization, Pr, Public relations, purchase driver, Value proposition, willingness to buy local
Local vs. Global Brands: Nearly 75% Of Global Consumers List Brand Origin as Their Key Purchase Driver, Nielsen Reports

National Pride a Factor Influencing Willingness to Buy Local vs. Global...

Thought Leaders On Deadline
Beyoncé Lemonade, Beyoncé PR, campaign promotion, digital video, Katherine Doble, Marketing, message control, Pr, PR message, Public relations, Schwartz Media Strategies, social media mastery, video consumption
PR Lessons from Beyoncé: How to Master Social Media

By Katherine Doble, Director of Digital and Branding, Schwartz Media Strategies...

Marketing, Noemi Pollack, Pollack PR Marketing Group, Pr, PR agencies, PR education, PR emerging trends, PR industry, PR professionals, Public relations, USC Annenberg PR study
Heads Up, PR Pros: Change, Adapt, Or Be Left Behind, According to the New USC Annenberg Study

By Noemi Pollack, CEO, The Pollack PR Marketing Group About a...

Anurag Gupta, content competitors, Content marketing, content planning, content promotion, content relevance, Marketing, Marketing plan, online marketer, Pr, Public relations, Target audience, WeblinkIndia.net
Follow This Foolproof Plan for Quick Content Marketing Success

By Anurag Gupta, Content Team Leader, WeblinkIndia.net Let’s face it—just about...