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FDA’s stark images merely truthful

US Food and Drug Administration

A judge last month blocked the federal requirement that would have begun forcing US tobacco companies to put large graphic images on their cigarette packages, such as the two above, to show the dangers of smoking and encourage smokers to quit.

ALLOWING GOVERNMENT to compel the tobacco industry, or anyone else, to advocate a political or ideological message is indeed repugnant to our Constitution. However, the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed graphic health warnings required for cigarettes do no such thing. Instead, they would have required tobacco companies to truthfully warn consumers about the dangers of using cigarettes. There is nothing unusual, and certainly nothing unconstitutional, about that.

The US Surgeon General, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, and others have demonstrated that the current textual warnings used in the United States are not read by consumers, and therefore do not serve as warnings at all. After researching the experience of more than 35 other countries, Congress determined that larger, rotating, color-graphic warnings are necessary.

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While the images may provoke emotional reactions, a viewer’s response to a factual depiction does not make the image any less true.

While the tobacco companies claim to be standing up for the First Amendment, their true concern is, as always, their bottom line.

The tobacco industry’s hysterical response to the FDA’s warnings should suggest that the FDA is on the right path.

Ilana M. Knopf

Assistant director

Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy

New England Law

Boston

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