Cigarette Makers Sue FDA Over Graphic Warning Labels

The new images that the FDA wants placed on cigarette packages by next month are very graphic. Tobacco giants said they're so graphic and disturbing that they shouldn't be forced to put them on their packages.

The warning labels depicting diseased lungs, gums and teeth, even a corpse were unveiled in June by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"With these warnings, every person who picks up a package of cigarettes will know exactly what risk they're taking," Sebelius said at the time.  

Four of the largest tobacco companies in the world are suing the FDA, saying the federal mandate to start using labels a year from now is illegal.

A statement from one of the four, R.J. Reynolds, says the regulation violates core constitutional principles of free speech: "Controversial photographs that have been technologically manipulated to maximize an emotional response from viewers, essentially turning our cigarette packs into mini-billboards for the government's anti-smoking message."

Advocates like Ellen Vargyas from the American Legacy Foundation say the warning labels are aimed at adult smokers as well as the four-thousand teenagers who take up smoking each day.

"The vast number of smokers start while they're teenagers. I think the latest numbers are about 90% of all smokers start smoking before they turn 19," Vargyas said.

A lawyer representing cigarette maker Lorillard in the lawsuit said: "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."

Supporters say the U.S. is merely catching up with dozens of other countries around the world who've been using the graphic labels for several years now.
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