In a major blow to anti-tobacco campaigners, an appeals court in the United States has ruled that the government cannot force tobacco companies to display graphic warnings on cigarette packets as it was against free speech.
The US government, along with the Food and Drug Administration, had planned to bring in new regulations that could have made graphic health warnings at the back of cigarette packets mandatory. The FDA had selected nine images showing dead or addicted smokers to warn the public about dangers of smoking.
However the tobacco companies campaigned against the regulations, claiming that it did not provide any additional factual information and was instead a clear example of anti-smoking advocacy.
Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that the regulation was just an "unabashed attempt to evoke emotion and shock the viewer". She added that the FDA had provided no proof that such a step could help reduce the number of smokers. "The FDA has not produced a shred of evidence showing that the graphic warnings will reduce the number of Americans who smoke", she said.