Tobacco Companies Sue Over Graphic Warning Labels

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According to news reports, four of the five biggest U.S. tobacco companies have filed a lawsuit alleging that new federally mandated warning labels meant to appear on cigarette packaging violate the companies’ free speech rights.

The nine new labels at the center of the lawsuit were recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are slated to begin appearing on cigarette packs in early 2012. The labels, which will cover the top half of the packaging on the front and back, must include the number for a stop-smoking hotline and make up 20 percent of the money spent on cigarette advertising. The nine label designs, which often feature graphic depictions of the consequences of smoking, will each be featured throughout the year.

Key points in the lawsuit are the assertions that incorporating the labels into cigarette packaging will cost tobacco companies millions of dollars and that the images featured on the labels were manipulated to be emotionally charged. The suit is independent from another lawsuit filed by some of the same companies against the federal government over the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

As a Los Angeles wrongful death attorney, I will be interested to learn the outcome of this case.