[JURIST] A group of four tobacco companies sued [complaint, PDF] the US government Tuesday claiming that new cigarette labeling regulations [FDA materials] violate their First Amendment [text] rights. The suit, filed against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], seeks an injunction against the new regulations, which the companies claim unconstitutionally force them to disseminate the government’s anti-smoking message. Floyd Abrams, an attorney for Lorillard [corporate website], said [press release]:
The regulations violate the First Amendment. … 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. The government can engage in as much anti-smoking advocacy as it chooses in whatever language and with whatever pictures it chooses; it cannot force those who lawfully sell tobacco to the public to carry that message, those words, and those pictures.
The other plaintiffs are RJ Reynolds, Commonwealth Brands and Liggett Group [corporate websites]. The new labeling rules are set to take effect in September 2012.
In February, Lorillard and RJ Reynolds filed suit [JURIST report] challenging an FDA advisory opinion on the use of menthol in cigarettes. In 2009, several tobacco companies filed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [text, PDF], which attempts to safeguard the public by granting the FDA certain authority to regulate tobacco products, among other provisions. A federal judge upheld the majority of the restrictions, and an appeal [JURIST reports] is underway.