Most Of FDA Tobacco Law Upheld

Last year, President Barack Obama signed The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law meant to allow the federal government broad authority over tobacco products and enable regulators to control <"">cigarette packaging and marketing. The law is also meant to allow how much nicotine—the addictive component in cigarettes—is added in tobacco products.

Recently, some tobacco companies—R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Lorillard Inc.—are included in a group that filed a federal lawsuit to block some of the provisions of the law, claiming it violates their rights to free speech under the U.S. constitution, reported Reuters. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is an arm or Reynolds American Inc., the maker of Camel and Winston brand cigarettes; Lorillard sells Newport cigarettes, said Reuters previously.

Now, a federal judge, while leaving most of the law in place, did agree with industry that two of the law’s provisions are not constitutional, said MedPageToday: bans on the use of colorful cigarette ads and tobacco companies not being able to state products are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Industry alleges the regulations violate free speech, said MedPageToday, citing the Associated Press (AP); U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley backed industry.

As we previously wrote, the lawsuit alleged that the new provisions place too many limits on the firms’ commercial rights to free speech given bans in place on television and radio ads said Reuters previously, which noted that the group was not arguing the agency’s right to regulate tobacco products. Currently, the law bans the use of terms such as “light,” “low,” and “mild” to describe cigarettes, said MedPageToday.

Some argued that 1st amendment issues were not appropriately addressed; however, proponents of the law cite the hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in health care linked to cigarette smoking annually. At the bill signing ceremony, President Obama said he is hoping to cut down the numbers of teens each day—estimated at about 1,000—who take up smoking. “I was one of these teenagers. And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time,” said Obama, quoted USA Today previously.

President Obama noted the law’s focus is on ending kid-geared marketing, said USA Today. “The kids today don’t just start smoking for no reason. They’re aggressively targeted as customers by the tobacco industry. They’re exposed to a constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where they learn, and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it even more tempting,” President Obama said, quoted USA Today previously.

Not surprisingly, R.J. Reynolds was happy with the outcome, said MedPageToday. David Howard, a firm spokesman said Reynolds is “pleased with the judge’s decision in finding that certain provisions are unconstitutional,” saying that colorful ads are critical to “effectively compete for the business of adult tobacco consumers and to accurately differentiate our products in a very challenging and busy marketplace ….We have the right to do that…. All products should have the right to do that,” said Howard, quoted MedPageToday. Reynolds is well known for its colorful “Joe Camel” ads that critics allege were geared toward younger smokers and potential smokers.

Meanwhile, companies will also be allowed to state their products are FDA regulated, an issue with health advocates concerned such information could falsely have consumers believing tobacco products are safe, noted MedPageToday.

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