Tobacco companies claim the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposed cigarette warning labels showing larger and more graphic depictions of the negative health consequences of smoking are unconstitutional.
The proposed cigarette warning labels, introduced to the public in November 2010, are designed to meet the guidelines of larger and more visible graphic health warnings as mandated by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.
But tobacco companies allege the law "contains several provisions restricting or banning truthful speech, contrary to the requirements of the First Amendment."
Legal Challenge to Cigarette Warning Labels
Suing the FDA over the proposed cigarette warning labels are R.J. Reynolds; Conwood Company, LLC; Commonwealth Brands, Inc.; Lorillard, Inc.; National Tobacco Company, L.P.; and Discount Tobacco City & Lottery, Inc.
"The obvious purpose of this is to force Plaintiffs to stigmatize their own products through their own packaging," the tobacco companies allege.
The suit was filed in August 2009 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Bowling Green Division.
Tobacco Chiefs Speak Out on Cigarette Warning Labels
The legal battle over the proposed cigarette warning labels and whether they infringe upon the First Amendment rights of tobacco companies could very well end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, experts believe.
"This suit does not challenge Congress' decision to give the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products, nor does it challenge the vast majority of the provisions of the new law," Martin L. Holton III, senior vice president and general counsel for R.J. Reynolds, said in a statement.
"However, the law contains provisions that severely restrict the few remaining channels we have to communicate with adult tobacco consumers and, in our opinion, cannot be justified on any basis consistent with the demands of the First Amendment."