Thursday, March 1, 2012

UPDATE: Tobacco Cos. Singe FDA Rule in Federal Court

FdaImage via WikipediaUnited States District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard J. Leon this week granted a preliminary injunction to tobacco companies challenging Food & Drug Administration regulations requiring cigarette packaging to carry graphic depictions of the health consequences of smoking.

Last August, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands, Inc., Liggett Group, LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. sued the FDA, which in June 2011, promulgated regulations, set to take effect in September 2012, based on H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, that mandated cigarette packaging and related advertising include grisly images, such as a cadaver on an autopsy table and blackened lungs. (See "TUOL" post 8/17/11.)

In siding with the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction in the case, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Administration et al. (Case No. 1:11-cv-01482), Judge Leon wrote in his 29-page opinion: "[T]he plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood that they will prevail on the merits of their position that these mandatory graphic images unconstitutionally compel speech, and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent injunctive relief pending a judicial review of the constitutionality of the FDA's rule."

The tobacco companies argue the FDA-imposed warnings exceed the limits of factual and neutral information and thereby, violate their First Amendment right of free speech. As reported by Ad Week, Judge Leon's Order prevents H.R. 1256 from taking effect until 15 months after the current lawsuit is resolved, which derails the September 2012, implementation.
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