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Do Graphic Photos Block Big Tobacco's Free Speech?

Are you a product photographer? What if you shot images for a product - any product - and then the federal government dictated how most of your packaging should look?

How would you react?

And what if you were required to put graphic photographs of rotting teeth and bodies decaying from smoking-related diseases all over your packaging? Tobacco companies are saying that the lettered warning labels they were required to put on their cigarette packs were one thing, but the new photographs they'll need to add next year are going too far.

Their recourse? Reynolds American (RAI), Liggett Group, Lorillard (LO), and Commonwealth Brand have become plaintiffs suing the country's Food & Drug Administration for requiring these graphic notices.

The Requirement: "The 2009 Family Smoking prevention and Tobacco Control Act requires color warning covering the top half of the front and back panels of cigarette packages, and the top 20 percent of printed advertising."

Tobacco's Response: The tobacco companies' lawsuit cites an unconstitutional assault to their free speech under the First Amendment. They're being forced to join in and advertise for a campaign that they don't go along with. September 2012 would be the year that cigarette packaging and advertising becomes photographically nasty.

Your Response: What do you think? Do these photographs violate tobacco companies' free speech?


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Reader Comments (6)

I would not say that the government forcing tobacco companies to do this is a goes against their free speech rights. However, I feel like there's something very wrong with it. If a person is being tried for something, they have a right to evoke the 5th amendment and not testify against their own person. Alcohol companies are not forced to put photos of drunks on their containers. You don't see the mangled body of the victim of a drunk driver. Drug manufacturers are not forced to put photos of people who died from overdosing on their medication. Auto makers don't have to put photos inside the cars of mangled bodies of people who died because they crashed and were not wearing their seat belts. So I think that the government is guilty of bullying the tobacco companies, pushing them around and definitely infringing on their freedom. But more than freedom of speech, their infringing on their freedom, period.
August 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarfa
My feeling is that a toxic product like tobacco should not even be allowed to be sold. If graphic pictures cause someone to think more about the consequences of smoking, I'm for it. It was difficult to watch my dad die prematurely from lung cancer and metastases, so I do not want others to suffer this fate or develop other tobacco-related cancers. Another relative who smoked died of esophageal cancer. It's uncertain how many other relatives died of heart attacks and strokes because of smoking or second-hand smoke. Allowing people to purposely ingest an addictive, carcinogenic product is wrong. The FDA is not going far enough in protecting our citizens!
August 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDZT
Its never to far when it comes to smoking. I too watched my father die at a young age along with my grandfather and uncle... all smoked and all died of cancer..I agree with the above statement.. I don't think Tobacco companies should be allowed to stay in business.
August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLarry
Well, as an ex-smoker (tobacco free for about 5 years and actually disgusted now even by the smell) I certainly don't advocate smoking. But the issue, I think, is how much should government be able to control businesses. They pick and choose which companies to attack and on which companies to turn a blind eye. I stand by my statement. Government should not force any company that is not breaking any laws, to put pictures or whatever else in their packaging. What made me stop smoking was not photos that I saw, it was the scare that I might have throat cancer. I didn't have it, thank God. But it was my choice to quit smoking. If I wanted to keep smoking I wouldn't have given a hoot about any photos on the packaging. Government's long arm is reaching way to far for my comfort. They should worry about the economy and getting people back to work.
August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarfa
The government is picking up the bill (through Medicare) of the people who get sick from smoking. So if they make a campaign with scary photos to help people quit their addiction, oh well let it be.
August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlessandra
Tobacco has been in the business for so many years. As time goes by, many people died because of its deadly effect on the users. I personally hate the fact that tobacco companies react with this "educational" photos containing warnings against smoking. They must realize first what havoc they bring while endorsing their products especially to the innocent youngsters.
October 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertest
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