[Masthead] Mostly Cloudy ~ 79°F  
High: 90°F ~ Low: 71°F
Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

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.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Well, I'm just going to sit back and wait for the fight to start, on this one.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 4:58 PM

Me too. No black eyes and busted lips for me this time.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 5:44 PM

No black eyes?

I guess we won't see leeii gracing any Tareyton ads.

("I'd rather fight than switch.")

But,this could be the begining of a whole new ad campaign using lesser mortals instead of uber-cool models.

If companies can't imply that only the youthful,prosperous and attractive use their product,they might also lose the suggestion that buying that item insures that one *becomes* vital.popular and good-looking.

They might have to hire regular folk -or people who look like those they've targeted.

" 'CoughinNaylz'-in Breathless Berry,Smotherin' Cinnamon,Minty Metastasis and Cocoa Coronary.

'CoughinNaylz": the legal addiction that won't make your life better but *will* make it shorter!

CoughinNaylz: for when you're too mean,dumb,broke and ugly to live anyway."

But,then,didn't Marshall McCluhan prove that ads often had subliminal suggestions of death and humiliation?

Maybe,customers know when a product is harmful and use it anyway because they have no respect or liking for themselves.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 6:34 PM

Maybe,customers know when a product is harmful and use it anyway because they have no respect or liking for themselves.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 6:34 PM

Or maybe it is an addiction just like any other drug except this one is legal. And people who started smoking back when it was kool and not so dangerous, are expected just to stop like it was nothing more than chewing gum.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 7:17 PM

Where are all the 'right to bear' people? If this is another constitutional right being challenged, doesn't it deserve equal attention?

-- Posted by stardust on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 8:51 PM

To be honest, I never really thought the "Marlboro Man" was cool at all. But, I sure thought the older kids that smoked were! There was actually a time when teenagers were allowed to smoke at Bedford County high schools as long as you had a note from your parents. I just couldn't wait to join that "cool" crowd. I'd give anything today if I hadn't been so stupid.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 10:11 PM

personally i am uncomfortable with this whole government drive to stop us from smoking. sure smoking is a bad idea, but when did it become the government's business to run our personal lives? where does it stop?

if the government wants to disallow sexy women & cool dudes in commercials because they think it has undue influence, then lets extend that to all advertising. better still, how about the government lets us rely on our own brains, and just butts out. if they arent making false claims then advertising is just advertising.

-- Posted by lazarus on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 11:33 PM

Social engineering by the government, no matter the form, is a ridiculous idea. I hope R.J. Reynolds wins the suit, but my bet is the court votes in favor of political correctness instead of constitutional law.

If your worried about the government abrogation of free speech, what about dear leader's plan to take over the internet???

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-103200...

-- Posted by quietmike on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 5:28 AM

I've been a non-smoker, a smoker (for 10 years) and a former smoker (for 7 years).

I never once bought a pack of cigarettes based on the package, advertising or because a cartoon spokesperson.

I DID, however, buy tons of a particular brand in the late 80's-early 90's, in order to earn redeemable points for t-shirts, jackets, etc.

I firmly believe that placing restrictions on any one particular industry's ability to market their product is a violation of their rights, regardless of how I personally feel about the company or the product. I just feel like it's a slippery slope.

-- Posted by Nobody'sFool on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 11:11 AM

I totally understand the almost visceral reaction to any potential threat to freedom of expression, but with their guiding principles of fairness and equality, if the Founding Fathers had seen the way that First Amendment rights had been so egregiously abused by certain people, institutions, industries and companies, they wouldn't have hesitated for a second to legislate against them.

The tobacco industry is surely one such case: Smoking has a truly catastrophic human, financial and societal cost. An estimated 400,000 Americans die from smoking-related diseases every year (part of the nearly 6m worldwide) to say nothing of the 8m Americans living with smoking-related health problems, the millions of loved ones left behind or the estimated $100bn spent every year on caring for smokers.

The links between smoking and cancer and heart disease were established in the early 'sixties. For FORTY YEARS the tobacco industry publicly and energetically denied, while privately acknowledging, these and hundreds of other scientific findings. Big Tobacco have used their First Amendment rights to deceive, distort, deny and lie with stunning effect.

We have a right to bear arms, but if you are convicted of a gun crime, then you are likely going to be prohibited from owning a gun in the future. I think most people would agree that this makes sense.

Likewise, if someone has been found to continually and cynically use their First Amendment rights over a forty-year period to promote an addictive product they know to cause death and disease, why wouldn't it be equally correct that their right to free expression be limited and subject to oversight in the specific areas they have been found guilty of lying in?

Don't get me wrong, this is not a sanction I would take lightly, but I feel that special cases sometimes need extraordinary actions, and in this case I sense the punishment very much fits the crime, so to speak.

Incidentally, all this bill really does is to bring the US a little closer to where every other developed nation is on tobacco control already. The Australians, Canadian and Europeans have had these warnings and this type of advertising restrictions for years.

By the tobacco industry's deeds shall ye know them. Sometimes you know the right side of an argument just by seeing who is on the other side...

-- Posted by Allen Carr North America on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 5:13 PM

With each concession of one's rights, we are asked again to concede a little more...until we find one day we no longer have a voice over what we can say, do, or wear.

If I were to take up smoking, it would not be because I saw some sexy guy light one up on T.V. I'd like to think that the commercial industry would give us more credit than that. If censorship is allowed here, then you can expect the same to follow for sexy beer commercials, underwear commercials, pepsi commercials...in fact, can you think of any product that hasn't used sex as an angle (maybe a constipation commercial...)?

I DO believe smoking is harmful and I would like to see the tobacco industry punished or at least held accountable, but I DO NOT agree with government censorship.

-- Posted by shawna.jones on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 6:30 PM

With free speech comes responsibility for your statements. You can't yell fire in a crowded theater and not expect to pay for your actions. If free speech leads anyone to cause loss of life or quality of life, is one thing. To criticize me, you, or even our government is another. I think the tabacco industry is grabbing smoke hoping to be able to say anything to sell another cigarette to anyone, without regard to the age of their customer. Having said this, I don't consider banning commercial ads disregarding health or life as censorship. Targeting minors should be child abuse and they should be prosecuted as such.

-- Posted by chs61 on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 9:21 PM

To lazarus; Since many of the people on government health care, medicare-medicaid, welfare, ss disability, etc., smoke, which adds millions if not billions of dollars in medical bills to the already broke national budget, it not only becomes the governments business, but every tax paying citizen of this country's. Just as if someone takes a gun, puts to his or her head, and attempts to blow their few brains out, why should we, the tax payers try to save their miserable life, just so they can go try it again, why should we have to pay for smokers medical care so they can go out and smoke some more. Yes, it's an addiction, but like all addictions, you have to want to quit.

-- Posted by conservativeme on Mon, Sep 28, 2009, at 7:48 AM


Respond to this blog

Posting a comment requires free registration. If you already have an account, enter your username and password below. Otherwise, click here to register.

Username:

Password:  (Forgot your password?)

Your comments:
Please be respectful of others and try to stay on topic.


David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.