Here’s an illustration of how the fabricated claim that corporations have constitutional rights, which was at the core of the Citizens United decision, really hits home. The tobacco industry recently won a court ruling that graphic warnings on cigarette packages violate the cigarette manufacturing corporations’ “free speech” rights. Now, the Obama administration has decided not to appeal that ruling, meaning that the bogus “corporate speech” doctrine has taken down another basic, common-sense public interest law, one that had followed bipartisan enactment by Congress for the Food and Drug Administration to adopt new warnings.

Here are excerpts from a Wall Street Journal story on this today.

FDA Scraps Graphic Cigarette Warnings


WASHINGTON—The Obama administration said Tuesday it is effectively scrapping a series of graphic warning labels on cigarette packages that were blocked by a federal appeals court.

The decision is at least a temporary victory for tobacco makers and leaves it up to the Food and Drug Administration to propose a new set of labels aimed at discouraging smoking. Any new labels aren’t expected to appear on cigarette packages for years.

The government opted against seeking Supreme Court review of a case that challenged warning labels bearing striking images, such as diseased lungs and a dead body. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that the proposed labels violated the tobacco industry’s free-speech rights under the First Amendment.

However, a separate ruling by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last March largely upheld the government’s authority to regulate tobacco, including requirements calling for stronger, graphic warnings on cigarettes. The tobacco industry has petitioned the Supreme Court to review that ruling, and the government has until Friday to respond to that petition.

The Supreme Court would later decide whether to accept the Sixth Circuit case for review. Any decision in that case isn’t expected to revive the previously proposed labels.

The District of Columbia case involved the specific graphic warning labels that had been proposed by the FDA while the Sixth Circuit case involved the broader 2009 law that gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. The 2009 law also called for stronger warnings including graphics that were to have been placed on cigarette packages last September. A series of legal challenges has kept any new labels from being implemented so far.

On Tuesday, the FDA said it would restart the federal rule-making process required for any new cigarette warning labels. It usually takes years for federal rules to be written and implemented….

The FDA had proposed requiring tobacco makers to place stronger warnings and graphic pictures on the top half of cigarette packages. The images included pictures of diseased lungs, a body on an autopsy table and a man blowing cigarette smoke out of a hole in his neck, which would be combined with stronger wording such as “smoking can kill you.”

Current warning labels are contained in a small box with black-and-white text. Several tobacco companies, including Lorillard Inc. and Reynolds American Inc., sued the FDA in federal court, arguing the graphic-images requirement violated the First Amendment’s free-speech clause. The industry has said it would accept stronger text warnings on the sides of cigarette packages.

(The full article is available here.)

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