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    Appeals Court Upholds Cigarette Warning Labels

    U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati rules that the mandated warnings do not violate free speech.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three weeks after a federal court sided against the new graphic cigarette warning labels, an appellate court in Cincinnati has ruled that requiring cigarette warning labels does not violate free speech.

    The latest ruling comes in Discount Tobacco City & Lottery Inc. v. U.S., 10-5234 and 10-5235, U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Bloomberg. It is separate litigation from a lawsuit filed in August by several tobacco companies seeking to block the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) graphic warnings from going forward.

    The warnings -- a combination of graphic text and images -- were originally mandated to be on every cigarette package and advertising by Sept. 22, as CSNews Online previously reported.

    The FDA took up the charge to issue new cigarette warning labels as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. That act gave the agency the power to regulate tobacco products.

    "The warning labels required by the act do not impose any restriction of plaintiffs' dissemination of speech," the appeals court said in today's 2-to-1 ruling. "Instead the labels serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco."

    In the other case, tobacco companies -- including R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC -- have been battling it out with the FDA in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. On Feb. 29, Judge Richard Leon struck down the new warning labels after previously issuing an injunction based his opinion that the tobacco companies would most likely win their challenge on constitutional grounds.

    "The government has failed to carry both its burden of demonstrating a compelling interest and its burden of demonstrating that the rule is narrowly tailored to achieve a constitutionally permissible form of compelled commercial speech," Leon said in his ruling last month.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., is slated to hear the FDA's appeal on April 10.

     

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