This Week’s Cartoon: Free Speech for Cigarettes

Hmm… so according to this 2-1 appeals court ruling, speech added to cigarette packaging limits speech. I guess the “individual liberties” of li’l old corporate persons like RJ Reynolds outweigh a democratically-elected government’s right to add a message on behalf of the public interest. Never mind that we’re talking about the packaging of a deadly commercial product with a history of being marketed to kids. Actually showing a kid being harmed on the package would interfere with whatever those Marlboros are trying to express.

Via Raw Story:

In a dissent, Judge Judith Rogers said that the regulation ordering the label “does not restrict the information conveyed to consumers, but requires additional information to be conveyed with the aid of graphic images.”

Rogers, who was appointed by former president Bill Clinton, said that tobacco companies had engaged in “decades of deception” over health risks and had no legal basis to complain about “emotional reactions” to graphic warnings.

You may recall that Judge Janice Rogers Brown, the author of the majority opinion, was one of the radical George W. Bush appointees whom the Dems tried to filibuster, until the Gang of 14 came along and opened the floodgates of nutballery. She’s an extreme libertarian who invokes Ayn Rand in speeches to the Federalist Society, and calls government a “leviathan” prone to “crushing everything in its path.” You know the type. She and Paul Ryan would make great drinking buddies.

I’ve been surprised by the number of commenters on Daily Kos who say “Oh, the labeling won’t work anyway.” To which I responded:

I think some of the labels would work, such as the one shown in the cartoon, saying “Tobacco smoke can harm your children.” Some people have no regard for their own bodies, but they care about their kids, and could use the reminder to smoke away from them.

If the warnings have no effect, then why are companies fighting them so vigorously? Why does Judge Brown say the labels are against the business interest of the companies if, as she also says, there’s “not one shred of evidence” that they work?


Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist for Daily Kos, The Nation, In These Times, Politico and other publications throughout the US. She received the 2023 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning from the National Press Foundation, and is a recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She is also a Pulitzer Finalist.



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