A federal judge ruled today that a mandate requiring tobacco companies to place on their products graphic images illustrating the dangers of smoking was in violation of free speech.

In other words: no picture of a dude jamming a cig through his tracheotomy hole is going to deter you from getting that sweet, sweet nicotine rush.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act passed in 2009 would have required various written warnings/bummers, like "Cigarettes are addictive" and "Tobacco smoke causes harm to children," to appear on all tobacco packaging, accompanied by such graphic images as a corpse, a smoker's lung, and a sad baby.

Judge Richard L. Leon wrote that the government's proposal overstepped legal bounds, as the new requirements were

"neither designed to protect the consumer from confusion or deception, nor to increase consumer awareness of smoking risks; rather, they were crafted to evoke a strong emotional response calculated to provoke the viewer to quit or never start smoking.

Although an interest in informing or educating the public about the dangers of smoking might be compelling, an interest in simply advocating that the public not purchase a legal product is not."

The Justice Department is expected to appeal the ruling.

In a related story, it was found that everybody else's tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strike's is toasted.

[Image via AP]