Design in the News: Controversial Cigarette Labels

Have you heard about the controversy erupting over the new warning labels that the government has mandated for cigarette packs? According to an article on, a federal law took effect in 2009 that mandated a new and graphic warning label be placed on all cigarette packs. These labels would cover 50% of both the front and back of the cigarette carton. Tobacco companies are also banned from using branded merchandise, sponsoring social events, or giving away free samples.

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is intended to sway people from purchasing tobacco products, convince people to quit, and prevent people from ever beginning to smoke. The tobacco companies are arguing that being forced to advertise the government’s anti-smoking agenda on their product is a First Amendment violation.

The judge who ruled on Monday in federal appeals court that the law is constitutional claims that these labels will better communicate the message to youths and the illiterate, therefore she feels that the labels are more effective than the text-only warnings.

The labels have yet to appear on cigarette cartons and as the legal battle continues, who knows if they ever will.

What do YOU think?

From an ethical perspective, does the government have the responsibility to the people to effectively warn the people of the harmful effects of cigarettes? Is this the right way to do it? Have they gone too far? Is this a violation of First Amendment rights?

From a design perspective, can the government interfere with the branding of a legal product? If you were a designer, how would you deal with designing for tobacco companies if these labels do go into effect?

Design is a powerful thing!

Has it been taken too far? Does design for the sake of good justify the interference of a company’s branding?


Read more: