Cigarette Warning Labels

While most labels are meant to encourage consumers to purchase a product, the Obama administration has proven that labels can be used to discourage consumers as well.  The administration has been pushing to require graphic warning labels on cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration approved nine graphic warning labels for tobacco makers to display on cigarette packs beginning in September.  These images are considered to be extremely graphic by some; they include photos of dead and diseased smokers.

Four of the largest U.S. tobacco companies sued the federal government in August, saying such labels violate free speech rights, and will cost them millions.  Last month, a District Judge ruled them unconstitutional, thus blocking the rule from taking effect.  However, the issue could still end up in the U.S. Supreme Court because the latest decision conflicts with another U.S. District Court Judge’s decision that upheld the label’s legality.  It remains unseen whether the graphic labels will end up on cigarette packs at this point.

Both sides seem to have strong arguments for and against these labels, and the process ruling their legality may take some time.  While one side argues that the labels clearly illustrate the risks associated with using such products, the other side argues that the images are neither “factual” nor “accurate” and they violate the First Amendment.  It remains to be seen which side will win this battle over the labels.  However, it is very clear that labels have the capability to send a strong message to consumers, and companies realize the effect labels have over consumer impression of their product.