Saúde Pública versus Liberdade Privada?

PRINCETON - Duas decisões contrastantes tiveram lugar no mês passado: um tribunal de recurso dos Estados Unidos decidiu contra a exigência da Food and Drug Administration (FDA) norte-americana de que os cigarros fossem vendidos em embalagens com imagens de advertência dos perigos para a saúde, enquanto o Supremo Tribunal da Austrália apoiou uma lei que vai muito mais além. A lei australiana exige que nos maços de tabaco figurem advertências dos perigos para a saúde e imagens dos danos físicos causados pelo tabagismo. Exige também que os próprios maços sejam simples, com os nomes das marcas a figurarem em ponto pequeno numa fonte padrão, sem logótipos e sem qualquer outra cor a não ser verde-azeitona.

A decisão dos EUA teve por base a protecção constitucional da América relativamente à liberdade de expressão. O tribunal aceitou que o governo possa exigir advertências factuais exactas dos perigos para a saúde, mas a maioria, numa decisão dividida, considerou que o governo não podia chegar ao ponto de exigir imagens. Na Austrália, a questão era se a lei implicava a expropriação sem a devida compensação - neste caso, dos direitos de propriedade intelectual nas marcas das empresas tabaqueiras. O Supremo Tribunal decidiu que não.

No entanto, subjacente a estas diferenças, está a grande questão: quem decide qual é o equilíbrio adequado entre saúde pública e liberdade de expressão? Nos EUA, os tribunais tomam essa decisão, essencialmente, com base na interpretação de um texto com 225 anos e se esse facto privar o governo de utilizar algumas técnicas que ajudem a reduzir o número de mortes causadas pelo tabagismo - actualmente estimado em 443.000 americanos por ano - assim o será. Na Austrália, onde à liberdade de expressão não é dada protecção constitucional explícita, os tribunais têm uma tendência muito maior para respeitar o direito dos governos democraticamente eleitos de encontrar o equilíbrio adequado.

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