U.S. Cigarette Makers Sue Government Over New Health Warnings

The leading tobacco companies state the new regulations oblige them to place federal anti-smoking warnings more prominently than their branding on packs.

new health warnings on cigarettes in USA

Leading tobacconists request a judge to stop new health warning labels on cigarette packs, which comprise shocking pictures of dead lungs and other diseases, since they unfairly promote taking off a legal product from the market and will cost millions to make.

“It is the first time in the United States history that manufacturers of legal products were obliged to use the packaging of these products as advertising of governmental campaign against these products, and calling adult customers to shun them,” the plaintiffs wrote in the note to the lawsuit submitted to federal court located in Washington.

The plaintiffs, among which are Reynolds American and Lorillard, claimed the new health warnings do not tell facts, permitting adult consumers to decide on their own on whether to consume tobacco products. Instead, they oblige them to place the anti-smoking claims much more prominently on the packages than brand names, the cigarette makers say. In this case, they request a judge to put a hold on the new rules.

The Food and Drug Administration refused to discuss on the ongoing litigation with tobacco industry. Yet, when commenting on the new labels, made public in June, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services said they are honest and frank in terms of risks of smoking.

The federal agency approved nine health warning labels to be placed on cigarette packs. They will cover top half of the packages, on both front and top sides. The latest labels also have to comprise 20 percent of any advert of cigarettes and provide a smoking-cessation hotline number.

Manipulated graphics?

The litigation said warnings were specifically developed to be very emotional.

According to the tobacco firms, the warning featuring corpse was done with participation of a professional actor with fake scars, and diseased lungs were manipulated in certain way to look scarier.

The cigarette makers also stated new warnings will cost millions to be spent on new machinery which could switch from printing one warning to another, and employing designers to check the labels correspond to federal rules while retaining some differences among brands.

Besides RJR and Lorillard, Ligget Group, Commonwealth Brands and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco also participate in the lawsuit.

Altria Group Inc., owner of the nation’s leading cigarette producer, Philip Morris USA, does not take part in the litigation.

In addition, the tobacco companies are trying to contest Family Smoking Prevention Act in a commercial free speech lawsuit.

The legislation, which came into effect in 2010, allowed FDA to introduce more grievous health warnings and limit nicotine amounts in tobacco products.

The legislation also prohibited tobacco industry from sponsoring social and athletic events and banned them from promoting their products through spreading free samples.

Federal court upheld many articles of the law, but the firms are going to submit appeals.

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