Oh, those poor tobacco companies.
The gall of the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration, to mandate that cigarette packs include color photographs showing diseased lungs and other effects of smoking.
Fortunately for beleaguered Big Tobacco, it has at least one federal judge on its side.
Judge Richard Leon blocked an FDA rule, scheduled to take effect next
year, requiring that cigarette packs include graphic photos showing the
possible effects of smoking.
The scenes, including the aforementioned lungs, include a man exhaling
smoke through a tracheotomy, a man breathing into an oxygen mask, and a
cadaver on a table with post-autopsy chest staples.
Five tobacco companies have filed a lawsuit challenging the rule.
The judge concluded the companies are likely to win, but because the
legal case could take years to resolve, they should not have to comply
with the rule in the meantime.
The judge wrote that the photos are designed to elicit an "emotional
response" rather than, as with the written health warnings that have
been legally required for more than 45 years, to be "purely factual."
It seems to us that the judge is giving too much credence to the saying "a picture's worth a thousand words."
A photo of a diseased lung is certainly more graphic than the written warning that "cigarette smoking causes lung cancer."
And a photograph could indeed provoke a more visceral response in a smoker than words would.
But it's illogical to conclude that a photo of a cancer-ridden lung is any less factual than the words "lung cancer."
To put it another way, the judge decided the government can require
cigarette makers to tell their customers that the product causes
cancer, but showing them what cancer looks like probably will be deemed
an unconstitutional imposition.
We hope the Obama Administration appeals Judge Leon's ruling.