Three tobacco companies on Thursday joined a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging a New York City Department of Health [official website] regulation [text, PDF] requiring stores to display graphic anti-tobacco ads where tobacco products are sold. Altria Group, Lorillard, and Reynolds American [corporate websites] joined the suit filed by New York City retailers in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] to challenge the regulation as a violation of First Amendment [text] freedom of speech. The suit also contends that the local action was preempted by the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act [text], in which Congress reserved control over the content of cigarette labeling and advertising to the federal government. The act specifically prohibits states and municipalities from imposing any requirement or prohibition based on smoking and health with respect to the advertising of cigarettes. The parties have asked the court to enter a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the regulation pending a resolution of the lawsuit.
This lawsuit is not the first by tobacco companies challenging regulations on First Amendment grounds. Last August, several tobacco companies filed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [text, PDF] as a violation of First Amendment rights. President Barack Obama signed the act into law last June, two weeks after it was approved by Congress [JURIST reports]. The law attempts to safeguard the public by granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] certain authority to regulate tobacco products, among other provisions. Last year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website] voted 38-12 to approve the bill [JURIST report]. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee [official website] approved a similar bill [JURIST report] in August 2007.