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Free speech goes up in smoke?Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009, at 2:50 PM
On one front, I was glad when arrogant tobacco companies had massive restrictions on advertising slapped on them in June.
Those restrictions were to ensure images of athletic, attractive young persons, "sophisticated" wealthy people and/or cartoon characters (remember Joe Camel?) aren't used to attract young persons to smoking.
You've probably seen ads from years ago in which tobacco companies claimed "more doctors smoke our brand" as if smoking was safe. I have no doubt tobacco firms would insinuate anything they thought they could get by with today.
But the free-speech/journalist side of me always revolts against government regulation of any form of expression.
And the non-government-interference side of me is becoming increasingly concerned about President Obama's apparent ambition to personally run every large industry in America.
That's why I'll be watching closely a lawsuit, joined Tuesday by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., claiming the restrictions violate First Amendment protections for free speech.
"The obvious purpose of this is to force plaintiffs to stigmatize their own products through their own packaging," the tobacco companies say in the suit.
Multiple published reports indicate warnings and "graphic photos" will cover the top half of cigarette packages with brand labeling, etc. limited to the bottom portions.
I'm hoping tobacco use continues to diminish; I fully support most government programs along those lines.
But curtailing forms of marketing? I'm still on the fence about this one.
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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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