Tobacco firms sue FDA over cigarette labeling

By staff writers

August 17, 2011 -- Four major U.S. tobacco companies have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), challenging the agency's new graphic cigarette warnings as an unconstitutional way of forcing tobacco manufacturers to disseminate the government's antismoking message.

Lorillard filed the lawsuit August 16 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia along with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Commonwealth Brands, and Liggett Group.

In June, the FDA announced that it will require larger, more prominent health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the U.S., beginning in September 2012. (Click here to see the nine graphic health warnings the agency has chosen.)

These warnings, which were proposed in November 2010, were required under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that was passed with broad bipartisan support in Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 22, 2009.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to stay the effective date of the regulation and a declaration that the regulation is unconstitutional.

"The regulations violate the First Amendment," said Floyd Abrams, a partner in the New York law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel, which is representing Lorillard. "The notion that the government can require those who manufacture a lawful product to emblazon half of its package with pictures and words admittedly drafted to persuade the public not to purchase that product cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny. The government can engage in as much antismoking advocacy as it chooses in whatever language and with whatever pictures it chooses; it cannot force those who lawfully sell tobacco to the public to carry that message, those words, and those pictures."

Copyright © 2011

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