States Join Chorus of Supporters in Favor of New Cigarette Labels

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government is getting support from nearly half of the states in its bid to get new graphic cigarette warnings included on all packs and advertising by September 2012.

On Friday, Dec. 23, state attorneys from 24 states filed a friend of the court brief in U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington expressing their support of the Food and Drug Administration’s challenge of a lower court decision blocking the new warning labels, a mix of graphic images and text.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted a temporary injunction blocking the rules requiring the new warning labels that use graphic images. His ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC opposing the new warnings on grounds the mandate violated the First Amendment, as CSNews Online previously reported.

Leon’s decision came as he determined that the tobacco companies would likely win their lawsuit challenging FDA’s requirement as unconstitutional.

For its part, the FDA contends the public interest in conveying the dangers of smoking outweighs the tobacco industry’s right to free speech.

Now the attorneys general arguing that the First Amendment does not prevent the government from requiring “lethal and addictive products carry warning labels that effectively inform consumers of the risks those products entail,” according to a report by CBS News.

“Over 40 years’ experience with small, obscurely placed text-only warning labels on cigarette packs has demonstrated that they simply do not work,” they wrote. “The warning labels reflect the unique magnitude of the problem they address, the deadly and addictive nature of the product, and the unparalleled threat this product and its marketing pose to America’s youth.”

The brief was filed on behalf of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, Washington and West Virginia.

President Obama even weighed in on the legal battle. In a video to mark the Great American Smokeout in November, the president said some tobacco companies are fighting the nine graphic warnings because “they don’t want to be honest about the consequences.”

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