Tobacco giants, wary of the effect new government-mandated warnings may have on cigarette smokers, filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, claiming that the labels are unconstitutional.

The labels, which feature graphic photos of diseased people and the phone number 1-800-QUIT-NOW, will be required to cover half the surface area of all cigarette packages by September 2012.

The lawsuit complains that the explicit message of the new labels violates the companies’ First Amendment rights.

Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment lawyer representing the tobacco companies, said the labels “essentially urge prospective purchasers not to buy” their lawful product. –BF

CNN:

Abrams says the tobacco companies don’t have a problem with the written wording required by the latest FDA ruling.

“The government has lot of power to require warnings, but it doesn’t require half of a cigarette pack to scream out, ‘Don’t buy this product!,” the New York-based attorney says. “What is at issue is putting photographs of diseased people on every cigarette pack, include a phone number, and ask people to stop smoking. It’s the direct advocacy to not buy the product, as opposed to a straightforward warning.”

Abrams says it’s likely his clients will seek some sort of preliminary injunction against the warning labels before the statute goes into effect next year.

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