Judge Stops Warnings on Cigar and Pipe Products

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 12, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What do pregnant women and cigars have in common?

Hopefully, very little. But in legal arguments, almost anything is possible.

In Cigar Association of America v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a federal judge in Washington, DC stopped government-ordered health warnings on cigar and pipe products. Judge Amit Mehta said it's like a California case that says pregnancy counseling centers don't have to tell patients about abortion services.

Free Speech

The California Supreme Court recently made a far-reaching decision in National Institute of Family Life Advocates v. Becerra. It struck down a state law that required religious-based counseling services to inform pregnant patients about abortion as an alternative.

In Washington, the judge delayed an FDA rule that would have required cigar and pipe products to display large warning statements about the health risks of tobacco and nicotine. He said the case raises "serious legal questions," especially since the California decision.

Mehta said the plaintiffs' First Amendment challenge to the FDA warning involves complex questions, such as what burden the government bears to compel factual speech and whether the size of the warnings chills speech.

"These are difficult legal questions, and the DC Circuit might well disagree with this court's resolution of them," Mehta said.

Earlier, the judge had ruled in favor of the government. He said the rule was constitutional, prompting an appeal from the tobacco associations.

He then granted a temporary injunction to stop implementation of the rule, pending a decision by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

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