Graphic labels will not appear on cigarette packages for now

HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) – A lot of people are talking about those graphic cigarette labels and the fact you won't be seeing them anytime soon, if ever. A judge blocked the federal requirement forcing companies to put the images on their products.

This isn't the final word in this hotly debated issue. The judge is halting the requirement until the First Amendment lawsuit brought by tobacco companies goes through the entire legal process, which could take years.

The ruling is generating some strong reactions.

"I don't really need all that on my cigarettes," said Preston Narron, who has been smoking since he was 13 years old.

Enthusiasm from smokers spread after hearing a judge sided with cigarette makers and they won't see the images on their smokes anytime soon.

"There's gotta be a better way than putting dirty lungs and healthy lungs on there or somebody with a big chest scar," Narron maintained.

In his ruling, the judge basically said the labels go beyond the facts into the realm of advocacy, which violates the First Amendment. The tobacco companies argue that they're selling a legal product, so the warnings that would take up half of a cigarette pack are a violation of free speech.

"Why not just stick a big label in front of the store that says 'we sell poison,'" explained Tripp Webb, who works at Cigarette City in Hopewell.

Patricia Manor, who has been smoking for thirty years, said the images go too far.

"The government is trying to control too much of what's going on right now," Manor exclaimed.  "And they need to back off and let the people decide what's right and what's wrong."

Health advocates maintain the warnings ensure everyone who picks up one of these packs knows the risks, but some smokers said there needs to be a middle ground between the current warnings and these graphic images.

"I do agree with them that there should be warning labels on cigarettes," Webb admitted. "I think the kind of things that they were wanting to put on there were a bit, I don't want to say offensive but I can't think of another word."

Five companies are involved in the suit.  Locally headquartered Altria is not included on that list.

It is possible the case could make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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