Tobacco companies to sue government

Several major US cigarette manufacturers have filed lawsuits against graphic photographic warnings that the government will require on all packaging.

Tobacco giants RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co, Commonwealth Brands, Lorillard Inc and Liggett Group LLC filed a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration to block the regulation. They claim the move violates their constitutional rights by forcing them to disseminate the government's anti-smoking message.

Tobacco companies will be required to display one of nine approved colour warning graphics on all cigarette packages and advertisements, health officials announced.

Consequences of smoking on packages

The new warning labels will feature images of rotten teeth, lesions on a user's lip, diseased lungs and even a dead body. The requirement will become effective in September 2012.

"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," said lawyer Floyd Abrams, who is representing Lorillard, which makes Newport cigarettes and other brands.

The graphics are the first major change in cigarette warnings in years. Packages currently contain a written warning of potential health consequences.

(Sapa, August 2011)

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