Tobacco health labels violate free speech: Judge

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 29, 2012 3:23 PM
Tobacco health labels violate free speech: Judge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge sided with tobacco companies on Wednesday, ruling that a new regulation requiring large graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging and advertising violates free-speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Cigarette makers challenged the U.S. Food and Drug administration's rule requiring companies to label tobacco products with images of rotting teeth, diseased lungs and other images intended to illustrate the dangers of smoking.

"The government has failed to carry both its burden of demonstrating a compelling interest and its burden of demonstrating that the rule is narrowly tailored to achieve a constitutionally permissible form of compelled commercial speech," said Judge Richard Leon in a 19-page ruling.

(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Matthew Lewis)