WASHINGTON -- Five American tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 16, charging that a new FDA mandate requiring graphic labels on cigarette packages violates free speech rights and is therefore unconstitutional.
The FDA rule would force manufacturers to urge their own customers not to purchase their products, said plaintiffs' attorney Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment expert, who points out that cigarettes are still lawful products.
Plaintiffs include R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, Commonwealth, Liggett, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Named as defendants are the FDA, FDA chairman Margaret Hamburg and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (The FDA is an agency of HHS).
As earlier reported by VT, the FDA announced its new regulations in June, saying tobacco products must carry one of nine new photos beginning in September 2012. | SEE STORY
The FDA has not commented on the litigation.