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US tobacco companies want graphic cigarette labels removed

The companies say that the labels “unfairly urge adults to shun their legal products” and “violate their free speech rights”.

Image: AP Photo/U.S. Food and Drug Administration, File

TOBACCO COMPANIES IN the US say they want a judge to put a stop to new graphic cigarette labels – because they will turn adults off their products.

The new images include the sewn-up corpse of a smoker and pictures of diseased lungs. The companies say they unfairly urge adults to shun their legal products and will cost millions to produce.

Four of the five largest US Tobacco companies sued the federal government yesterday, saying the warnings violate their free speech rights.

The companies, RJ Reynolds, Lorillard Tobacco Co, Commonwealth Brands Inc, Liggett Group LLC and Santa Fe Natural TobaccoCompany Inc, said the warnings no longer convey facts to allow people to make a decision on whether to smoke.

They wrote in their lawsuit:

Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally-charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products.

They say they want a judge to stop the labels as they force them to put government anti-smoking advocacy more prominently on their packs than their own brands.

The FDA approved nine new warnings to rotate on cigarette packs, which will be printed on the entire top half, front and back, of the packaging and must constitute 20 percent of any cigarette advertising.

They also all include a number for a stop-smoking hotline.

The lawsuit said the images were manipulated to be especially emotional and that the corpse photo (see image above) is actually an actor with a fake scar, while the healthy lungs (image above) were sanitised to make the diseased organ look worse.

The companies also said it will cost them millions of dollars for new equipment so they can change the warnings while meeting federal requirements and maintaining distinction among brands.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which took affect two years ago, cleared the way for the more graphic warning labels.

A federal judge upheld many parts of the law, but the companies are appealing.

- AP

Read: Photos on cigarette boxes will reduce amount of smokers>

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