Cigar Ads Get to Keep Their Pictures and Color

I have not yet persuaded the American Psychiatric Association to include this disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, better known as the DSM-IV, but I am pushing for inclusion of a disorder I have named Competitive Compassion Disorder, or CCD.

You see the classic example of CCD every time you go to a large shopping mall, especially around Christmas time. You are forced to park miles from the mall, while dozens of handicapped parking spaces near every entrance go unused. That many handicapped spots make no sense whatsoever, but long ago in some legislative session a conversation took place that went something like this:

“I am a compassionate person who cares about the handicapped, and I therefore propose that we pass a law that reserves a parking spot close to the entrance so they will not need to travel so far in their wheelchairs.”

“I too am compassionate, but more so than you. I propose that we force businesses to reserve two handicapped spots near the entrance.”

“Your suggestions are sound, gentle persons, but you do not have the level of compassion that I possess, or you would see that a mere two parking spots is not nearly sufficient. I propose that every business be forced to set aside five percent of the available parking spaces for the wheelchair bound.”

“Your compassion is impressive indeed, kind sir, but if you possessed my much higher level of compassion you would understand that handicapped persons are not limited to those in wheelchairs. I propose that doctors be permitted to declare that anyone is handicapped, and that ten percent of all spaces should be reserved for their use, and that anyone that uses such a spot who is not handicapped, should be assessed a large fine.”

And so it went.

CCD was in full effect last year when Congress decided that the Food and Drug Administration would regulate tobacco products. In passing the new law, Congress added many CCD provisions, including a regulation that made it illegal for tobacco companies to use any color or graphics in their advertising. You see, Joe Camel was voluntarily discarded years ago since it was decided a cool camel in a leather jacket would encourage young boys to smoke. But the legislators are more compassionate than that, and decided that any pictures or color might have the same effect. U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley in Kentucky ruled late Monday that those marketing restrictions violate the tobacco companies’ free speech rights.

In a fun twist, now that the FDA is regulating cigarettes, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. had also argued that it must be permitted to say that its cigarettes are “FDA Approved.” The FDA screamed, but Judge McKinley ruled the FDA must let companies say it has approved their products. Congress; can you say “hoisted on your own petard?”

Thankfully, when thumbing through a copy of Cigar Aficionado, we will still be able to see the beautiful cigars in the ads, and will not be limited to black and white text.

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