Five tobacco manufacturers filed a lawsuit August 2011 against the FDA over the agency’s requirement that all cigarette packages carry a graphic warning label depicting the dangers of smoking.
By September 2012 the FDA requires all packaging to have a warning label. The main argument in the lawsuit was that this requirement threatened the constitutional rights of the tobacco manufacturers.
On November 8, 2011 U.S. District Attorney Judge Richard Leon granted an injunction on behalf of the tobacco manufacturers.
Big Tobacco Win Injunction
Judge Leon suspended the FDA’s requirements until the lawsuit is resolved. Therefore, the FDA cannot require tobacco manufacturers to include one of the nine proposed graphic warnings on cigarette packaging. Judge Leon noted that forcing the companies to do so violates their 1st Amendment rights of free speech.
Additionally, the images proposed by the FDA went beyond portraying fact, and appear to be a form of advocacy as they carry a powerful emotional component. Judge Leon wrote in his ruling:
It is abundantly clear from viewing these images that the emotional response they were crafted to induce is calculated to provoke the viewer to quit, or never to start smoking – an objective wholly apart from disseminating purely factual and uncontroversial information.
The five tobacco manufacturers involved are R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands Inc., Ligget Group LLC, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc. The lawsuit is expected to take years to resolve.