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Supreme Court may hear free speech challenge to FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco

Big Tobacco companies fight the 2009 law that spurred graphic label requirements

Big Tobacco already escaped the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations that would have required cigarette packages to include large, graphic warning labels depicting diseased lungs and other disturbing images. Now it wants the Supreme Court to hear its free speech challenge to the 2009 law that gave the FDA the power to require the labels in the first place.

The law required tobacco companies to save half of the space on their packaging for these graphic labels, and barred them from sponsoring sporting events, among other requirements. The law “eviscerates many of the few remaining avenues available … for speaking to adults” about tobacco, the challenging companies, including Lorillard Tobacco Co. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., said in a court brief.

The D.C. Circuit delivered a win for tobacco companies when it found the labels unconstitutional, saying that the FDA hadn’t proved they would achieve its goal of reducing smoking rates. However, last year, the 6th Circuit upheld most of the law’s provisions, ruling that the government has a stake in letting consumers know the health risks of tobacco products. The Supreme Court will consider whether to take up the tobacco industry’s challenge to the 6th Circuit’s decision today.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.


For more InsideCounsel coverage of Big Tobacco, see below:

Michael Bloomberg seeks to ban cigarette displays

Tobacco companies and states reach agreement over payments

Judge tells Big Tobacco to disclose deception on packaging

D.C. Circuit rules against graphic tobacco label requirements

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