Supreme Court Upholds Tobacco Warning, Marketing Law

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Supreme Court Upholds Tobacco Warning, Marketing Law


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a 2009 federal law that requires warning labels on cigarettes and expanded marketing restrictions on tobacco products.

The law mandated that tobacco manufacturers reserve half of the space on the front and back of cigarette packages for graphic health warnings. It also barred marketing practices like cigarette-brand sponsorships of sporting or cultural events, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, tobacco companies said the provisions burdened their protected right to communicate with adults about their products.

The issue over the 2009 law landed before the Supreme Court after an appellate court in Cincinnati ruled in March 2012 that requiring cigarette warning labels does not violate free speech.

"The warning labels required by the act do not impose any restriction of plaintiffs' dissemination of speech," the appeals court stated in its two-to-one ruling. "Instead, the labels serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco."

In today's decision, the Supreme Court let that ruling stand, denying the tobacco industry appeal without comment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was pleased with the Supreme Court's decision and would continue "moving forward" to implement the tobacco law, WSJ reported.

The ruling gives the FDA the green light to issue new graphic warning labels for cigarette packs and advertising. The agency had released new warning labels -- a mix of texts and graphic images -- in June 2011.

However, after losing several rounds in court over the labels, the FDA decided last month to scrap its nine graphic cigarette warning labels and start all over again, as CSNews Online reported.

This appeal was a separate legal matter from an August 2011 lawsuit that several tobacco companies filed against the FDA over the nine warnings.