Big Tobacco’s Label Appeal is Denied as NYC Tries to Change Legal Smoking Age


Cigarette warning labels haven’t changed a bit in the last 30 years, despite lots of data being unearthed in that time on the dangers of smoking and plenty of efforts by the government and consumer groups to have those labels changed. The main reason no change has occurred is because of the undying efforts of Big Tobacco’s legal departments. 

Those departments took a hit Monday when the Supreme Court rejected Big Tobacco’s efforts to challenge a 2009 federal law “that requires graphic warning labels on cigarettes and expanded marketing restrictions on tobacco products,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

This doesn’t mean that smokers will soon be carrying around cigarette packs with gruesome images such as a sewn-up cadaver, a crying woman who apparently has lung cancer, smoke coming out of a man’s trachea, and other such unpleasant sights. It will take time to get new images approved and they will likely go through their own legal challenges along the way. Plus, last August, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit “ruled that the proposed labels violated the tobacco industry’s free-speech rights under the First Amendment,” the Journal reminds. The Obama Administration later said “it wouldn’t mount a further legal defense of the labels, leaving the agency to consider new proposals.”[more]

Now that the Supreme Court has turned away Big Tobacco again, it leaves the door open for the FDA to start working toward putting a new version of the warning labels on cigarette packs. The law also forbids tobacco companies from sponsoring sporting or cultural events.

Meanwhile, with less than nine months left in office and a recent loss in his battle against soda consumption, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is going after cigarette sales in the Big Apple. Last month, he said he’d like all those cigarette brands to be hidden from view in the city’s bodegas and convenience stores. Now he’s saying that he’d like to raise the legal age of buying a pack of smokes from 18 to 21, the New York Times reports.

Under 21s would still be allowed to possess and actually smoke cigarettes but would not be legally able to purchase them. Bloomberg altered the New York bar and restaurant scene drastically (and likely put a dent in dry-cleaner revenue) when he banned smoking in in them, as well as in parks, beaches and other public places.

“With this legislation, we’ll be targeting the age group at which the overwhelming majority of smokers start,” said Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and a candidate to take Bloomberg’s place as mayor in January, the Times reports. 

It looks like politicians aren’t worried about getting the smoker vote anymore.


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