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1st Amendment and Tobacco Lawsuit in 6th Cir. Court of Appeals

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 24, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cigarette cartons might be looking like even more of a deterrent in the near future. However, the tobacco industry isn't letting the government scare their customers without a fight in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this week, United States health officials announced that they would be placing graphic images of dead bodies, decaying teeth and a man breathing through a hole in his neck on packs of cigarettes, reports Reuters.

These new regulations were slated to go into effect in October, 2012. But now, several tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard Tobacco Co have filed suit before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The regulations were enacted under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Cigarette companies claim that these regulations violate their First Amendment rights to communicate about their products to adult tobacco consumers.

A federal district court in Kentucky upheld much of the regulatory framework last year in the tobacco lawsuit, citing that the message from the graphic images did not alter the substance if the messages already appearing on the face of the cigarette cartons. The current messages state "Cigarettes are addictive" and "Smoking can kill you."

The decision was appealed before the Sixth Circuit, with the companies arguing that the government was forcing the companies to disseminate an anti-smoking message which would stigmatize and embarrass informed consumers, reports Reuters.

According to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the new labels will be the "toughest and most effective health warnings" in U.S. history, writes the San Francisco Chronicle.

The oral arguments will be heard in July 2010.

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