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May/June 2012
7
Public Citizen News
Court Upholds New Warnings on Cigarette Packages
WIN!
By Greg Beck
A federal appeals court on
March 19 rejected the tobacco in-
dustry’s challenge to provisions
of the Family Smoking Preven-
tion and Tobacco Control Act de-
signed to limit the industry’s abil-
ity to advertise to children and to
provide adequate warnings of the
risks of using tobacco products.
In
Discount Tobacco City &
Lottery v. USA
, the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
upheld provisions of the law
that require new, government-
selected graphic warnings on
cigarette packages, limit industry
health claims about “light ciga-
rettes” and similar products, ban
tobacco-company
logos
and
brand names on promotional
items, and prohibit sponsorship
of concerts and sporting events.
However, the court struck down
a provision of the law that limited
tobacco ads to black-and-white
text, holding that the provision
was too restrictive on speech.
Public Citizen filed a friend-
of-the-court brief defending the
law on behalf of itself, Campaign
for Tobacco-Free Kids, Ameri-
can Cancer Society, American
Heart Association, American
Legacy Foundation, American
Lung
Association,
American
Medical Association, American
Public Health Association, Ken-
tucky Medical Association and
Oncology Nursing Society.
“Although not all of the law
survived, the decision is a win
for public health,” said Allison
Zieve, director of the Public Citi-
zen Litigation Group. “The court
recognized the government’s
substantial interest in protecting
children from the industry’s ag-
gressive marketing tactics.”
Public Citizen’s brief highlight-
ed the serious public health im-
pact of cigarettes, which, unlike
any other consumer product, kill
up to half of the people who use
them as intended. Tobacco kills
an estimated 443,000 people in
the United States every year —
more than AIDS, alcohol, illegal
drug use, homicide, suicide and
motor vehicle crashes combined.
The Sixth Circuit’s decision
concluded that the graphic warn-
ings are justified by the public
health costs of smoking.
“There can be no doubt,” the
court wrote, “that the govern-
ment has a significant interest
in preventing juvenile smoking
and in warning the general public
about the harms associated with
the use of tobacco products.”
The court noted the “thousands
of pages of medical studies and
governmental reports support-
ing the conclusion that the use of
tobacco, especially by juveniles,
poses an enormous threat to
the nation’s health and imposes
grave costs on the government.”
The court also cited evidence that
the industry often had directed
its advertising at children “to
maintain and increase tobacco
use and dependency.”
The Sixth Circuit also rejected
the tobacco industry’s argument
that the public is adequately in-
formed about the health risks of
smoking. Although most people
know that smoking can cause
lung cancer, the court noted evi-
dence that Americans — especial-
ly children — are less likely to un-
derstand other health risks, such
as emphysema and oral cancer,
and often dramatically underes-
timate their own risk of addiction
and death.
On May 4, the tobacco compa-
nies filed a petition for rehearing
in the case, seeking review by all
of the Sixth Circuit judges.
The court’s decision to uphold
a requirement that tobacco com-
panies reproduce government-
selected graphic warnings on
cigarette packaging conflicts
with a decision by a federal court
in the District of Columbia, which
held in February that the graph-
ics chosen by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration violate the
First Amendment. In that deci-
sion, the district court held that
the images chosen by the agency
— which include depictions of a
corpse, a diseased lung and oral
cancer — “cross the line from in-
formation to advocacy” because
they are “designed to evoke
emotion.”
The government appealed that
decision to the D.C. Circuit Court
of Appeals, and Public Citizen
filed a friend-of-the-court brief
in support of the government’s
position.
If the D.C. Circuit Court of Ap-
peals upholds the district court’s
decision, the case may well be
headed to the U.S. Supreme
Court.
Stand Up for Main Street
Some of the hottest comedians on the circuit today
entertained the crowd at Public Citizen’s second
“Stand Up for Main Street” comedy benefit, held
April 29 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly
Hills, Calif. (Photos clockwise from top left) 1)
Marc Maron (“WTF With Marc Maron” podcast)
engages the audience; 2) Ray Romano (“Everybody
Loves Raymond”) performs his act; 3) Public Citizen
President Robert Weissman (left) and Steve Skrovan,
a master of ceremonies for the event and a member
of Public Citizen Foundation’s Board of Directors,
share a laugh; 4) Wendy Liebman (“The Late Show
With David Letterman”) is interviewed at the event.
Photos by Tom Caltabiano