published Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Correct ruling on tobacco labels

A federal judge has properly struck down as unconstitutional a government requirement that tobacco companies put gruesome warning labels on cigarette packages and advertisements.

While the labels -- including photos of dead bodies -- may have the worthy goal of discouraging the awful habit of smoking, they amount to government compelling tobacco firms to advertise in graphic fashion against their own products.

However serious its health consequences are, tobacco is legal. Producers of tobacco or any lawful product should not have to wrap their products in labels specifically meant to sicken or shock consumers.

The judge said the federal rules mandating the emotionally charged labels "unconstitutionally compel speech ..." and violate the First Amendment's free speech guarantee.

Smoking is a tragic, lethal habit, but the judge was right to strike down these unconstitutional labeling requirements.

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