Jun. 28 2001
Washington, DC — Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling is a disappointing setback to state efforts to protect children from the tobacco industry's marketing practices. However, it is important to note that the First Amendment portion of today's ruling is narrowly tailored, and we believe that most if not all of the marketing restrictions imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in its 1996 tobacco rule would be upheld under the standards set by the Court today.
Today's ruling also does not affect the ability of Congress to grant the FDA authority to curtail illegal tobacco sales to children and to apply to tobacco products the same public health and consumer protection standards that apply to other products. This ruling imposes an even greater responsibility on Congress to pass legislation granting the FDA this type of comprehensive authority. Good, bipartisan FDA bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate, including H.R. 1097 by Reps. Ganske, Dingell and Waxman and S. 247 by Sens. Harkin, Chafee and Graham. Congress should pass them quickly and end special protection for the tobacco industry.
Today's ruling also underscores the need for the U.S. Department of Justice to aggressively pursue the federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry rather than seeking to settle the case prematurely. This lawsuit could bring about fundamental change in the tobacco industry's harmful marketing practices consistent with today's ruling.
The tobacco companies may view today's ruling as a victory, but the fact that they chose to challenge Massachusetts' common-sense restrictions on tobacco marketing to kids shows that they are not to be believed when they say they want to reduce smoking among kids. No responsible corporate citizen would defend its right to market a deadly and addictive product near schools and playgrounds and in other ways effective at reaching kids.