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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do Smoking Regs Violate Tobacco Companies' Free-Speech Rights?

Do Smoking Regs Violate Tobacco Companies' Free-Speech Rights?
By Nathan Koppel

The 6th Circuit today is due today to hear an interesting challenge to the federal government’s regulatory power — and, no, we are not referencing another case involving the federal healthcare law.
At issue in the 6th Circuit case is the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco advertising.
Tobacco companies claim that the law, which bans the companies from sponsoring athletic, social and cultural events or offering free samples, violates their free-speech rights, the AP reports in this preview of today’s hearing.
The Tobacco Control Act has been a hot topic this year, after U.S. regulators mandated that cigarette makers add graphic warning labels to their products depicting such images as a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his neck — a development we wrote about here.  (The tobacco industry’s free-speech challenge predated the new smoking regulations, which are due to take effect new year.)
Last year, Kentucky federal judge Joseph McKinley Jr. largely rejected the industry’s free-speech challenge to the federal law.
Kenly Ames, an attorney for the tobacco companies, wrote in an appellate brief that the federal law doesn’t serve any purpose other than to make it difficult for companies to sell cigarettes, the AP reports.
Justice Department attorney Alisa B. Klein countered with a brief contending that the restrictions at issue are needed because of tobacco companies’ track record in seeking out new customers, according to AP. Tobacco imagery “seeks to distract potential users from the fact that tobacco products are lethal and addictive,” Klein wrote.

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