BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky — Most of the nation’s large tobacco companies sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday saying a new federal law limits their freedom of speech, according to the New York Times.
Companies including Commonwealth Brands Inc., National Tobacco Co. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. sued the federal agencies (pdf) and their leaders to try to stop the landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 from curtailing their marketing or forcing them to print graphic warnings on the tops of cigarette packages next year, the Times said.
The first lawsuit against the new law, which President Obama signed on June 22, is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Times said. The law tries to stop tobacco marketing to children and to control deceptive tobacco marketing to adults. The law also puts the FDA in charge of regulating marketing and promotion of tobacco products and setting performance standards for tobacco products that protect public health.
The lawsuit is not challenging the government’s right to regulate cigarette contents, but focuses on speech and marketing restrictions, Floyd Abrams, a constitutional lawyer who is representing the Lorillard Tobacco Co., told the Times in a phone interview on Monday. Congress did not ban cigarettes or nicotine despite a death toll estimated by the government at 400,000 a year, partly because public-health advocates said smokers would turn to a black market, the Times said.
The parts of the law that are at issue restrict tobacco marketing after decades of revelations about how the industry hid health hazards, secretly manipulated nicotine levels to hook smokers, advertised to children and falsely claimed low-tar or light cigarettes were safer, according to the Times.
“It was perfectly clear there was going to be a constitutional challenge, and I think it will survive the challenge,” Richard A. Daynard, a professor at the Northeastern School of Law in Boston and chairman of its Tobacco Products Liability Project, said in a phone interview with the New York Times. In 2001, the Supreme Court rejected outdoor advertising restrictions in tobacco regulations in Massachusetts, ruling that it violated free speech rights, according to the Times.
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[Photo by Flickr user SuperFantastic]
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