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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three weeks after a federal judge put a temporary stop to the new graphic cigarette warning labels, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is appealing the move.
In a filing today, the FDA said it will challenge U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's decision to grant a temporary injunction blocking the rules requiring the new warning labels that use graphic images, according to a report by Bloomberg. Leon handed down his decision on Nov. 7.
The legal battle centers around the nine different warnings -- consisting of graphic images and text -- that must be featured on all cigarette packages and advertising by Sept. 22, 2012. The FDA released the final nine images in June. However, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC joined in a lawsuit in August to fight the mandatory labels on First Amendment grounds.
In making his decision earlier this month, Leon said the four tobacco companies would win their lawsuit challenging the requirement as unconstitutional, as CSNews Online previously reported.
Shortly after the ruling, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice urging an immediate appeal.
President Obama even weighed in on the legal battle. In a video to mark the Great American Smokeout, the president said some tobacco companies are fighting the nine graphic warnings because "they don't want to be honest about the consequences."
In a response to the FDA's filing today, Floyd Abrams, an attorney for Greensboro, N.C.- based Lorillard, told Bloomberg he wasn't surprised by the FDA's notice of appeal. "We'll have to wait and see what they have to say" in the appellate brief, Abrams said. He declined to comment further.