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Judge Throws Out Provisions Of Tobacco Act He Says Violate Free Speech

January 15, 2010 by  

Judge throws out provisions of tobacco act he says violate free speechU.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. last week upheld the provisions of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which limit the marketing of cigarettes through sponsorships and on merchandise. However, he overturned some parts of it saying they violated tobacco companies’ free speech rights.

Under the act, tobacco companies will be required to use large health warnings on cigarette packs, and will no longer be allowed to market tobacco to children, engage in brand name sponsorships, sell tobacco-branded merchandise, give free samples of tobacco products and free gifts with purchase.

However, advocacy organizations such as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are critical of the judge’s decision to overturn the ban on color and graphics in most tobacco advertising.

"[This] provision is constitutional because it serves the compelling government interest of discouraging tobacco use by children and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest," the organization said in statement.

It added, "We believe that the judge’s conclusions on these two provisions are based on a misinterpretation of the law and strongly urge the government to appeal."

Meanwhile, David Howard, spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, maker of Camel cigarettes, said the company was "pleased" with that part of the ruling. R.J. Reynolds, along with Lorillard, which sells Newport menthols, and several other tobacco makers sued in August to block the restrictions.

The companies are considering whether they will appeal the parts of the law the judge upheld.

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