Bottom Line: Cigarette warnings

The courts last year rightly struck down the federal government’s exceedingly graphic warnings on cigarette packs – which included, among other things, a depiction of a cadaver that’d been stitched up after an autopsy.

We understand the intent – to scare people out of smoking. But it’s a dangerous area when the government is taking over almost the entire labels of legal products, even cigarettes. Given even good intent, what else might the government start putting its own labels on?

That might work in other countries, but there’s a little something here called the First Amendment. Thank goodness.

The Justice Department announced in a recent letter that it won’t fight last year’s federal appeals court ruling striking down the government’s labels. The Food and Drug Administration will simply go back to the drawing board and try to come up with something that doesn’t violate the Constitution.

That’s all well and good, but we would ask: Why?

Why not just take all the government warnings off?

Wouldn’t that leave tobacco companies without the cloak of protection the U.S. Surgeon General provides? Wouldn’t it force the companies to consider issuing their own warnings – or face the consequences in lawsuits?

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see what, if left to their own devices, the cigarette makers would tell consumers?

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon