Sept. 25th, 2000 — In a closely watched early ruling on the federal Tobacco Act, Judge Danielle Grenier last week rejected an application for a stay by the three major tobacco companies. A stay would have blocked the implementation of the new regulations on tobacco product labelling.
The cigarette manufacturers argued that it would be inappropriate to impose the cost of switching over to a new warnings system before the courts have ruled on whether the Tobacco Act is constitutional. A trial on the substantive issue is slated for early 2001, but proceedings have been delayed on several occasions already.
According to Judge Grenier, the tobacco companies “argue that the stay would in fact be for a short period and that it would therefore not harm the public interest, as the constitutional issue will be decided in relatively short order. [But] the matter was referred to the undersigned in 1997. If the past is any guide to the future, it would be entirely naive to think that the debate will be limited to a lower-court judgement... Interlocutory relief would therefore last more than six months and would harm the public interest... At this stage, it must be... recognized that the regulations, despite their imperfections, have likely been adopted in the interest of citizens. It would be contrary to the pursuit of the common good to suspend their effect for an unlimited period in interlocutory proceedings.”