Cigarette Death Still Sold in Pretty Packages

Court rules graphic images violate Big Tobacco’s First Amendment rights.

According to court-approved tobacco warning labels, smoking is glamorous and sexy, and it makes people smarter and live forever. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters)

Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

U.S. smokers can light up without worrying about choking on a photo of a man jamming a cigarette into a hole in his throat. District Judge Richard Leon issued a temporary injunction Monday against nine truly disgusting warning labels that the Food and Drug Administration mandated would be placed on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States starting in September 2012. The gruesome warnings included full-color pictures of rotted lungs, post-autopsy corpses, infected gums and a toddler sucking in second-hand smoke.

The World Health Organization is a zealous advocate of graphic warning labels on tobacco products, primarily because the disgusting visuals actually do deter smoking.

Leon freed the companies from their obligation to slather the revolting and accurate imagery on their noxious products, reasoning that Big Tobacco will probably win its lawsuit challenging the warnings on the grounds that the images are free speech violations.

Five of America’s largest tobacco companies pooled their resources to hire noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams to plead their case. Abrams was formerly best known for ensuring that the Pentagon Papers were published, for protecting the Brooklyn Museum’s artistic integrity from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and for forcing the Fox News Channel to bite the bitter bullet of Senator Al Franken using the phrase “Fair and Balanced” in the title of his book.

Tobacco is the top cause of preventable death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reckons that one in every five U.S. deaths is attributable to tobacco. Approximately 21 percent of U.S. grownups smoke, as do many more children, numbers that are about the same as in 2004.

The World Health Organization is a zealous advocate of graphic warning labels on tobacco products, primarily because the disgusting visuals actually do deter smoking.

The tobacco lobby is purported to spend more than $100,000 every day to push its agenda in Washington.

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