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WASHINGTON -- A federal trial judge in Kentucky ruled against two provisions of the law giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, stating in a 47-page order that they violate corporate free-speech rights, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. threw out a provision that would ban tobacco companies from using color ads and graphics when advertising tobacco products, which would have limited them to black and white "tombstone" advertising.
The judge also threw out a provision that would ban companies from stating their tobacco products are regulated by the FDA. Public health advocates were concerned FDA regulation of tobacco indicate to consumers a stamp of approval that the products are safe, according to the report.
However, the court rejected most of the other First Amendment challenges brought by Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) and Commonwealth Brands Inc., the report stated.
The companies argued the law imposes unprecedented restrictions on their First Amendment rights and wanted the court to prevent the government from enforcing certain provisions.
Elements that were left intact were provisions banning tobacco companies from marketing products on baseball caps and T-shirts, as well as offering free samples and gifts with purchases, Dow Jones reported.
The judge also upheld a provision giving federal, state and local governments authority to impose additional regulations on the tobacco industry.
Matthew Myers, president of the advocacy group the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the news agency the government should appeal the judge's decision regarding the color advertising and the decision allowing companies to state their products are regulated by the FDA.
Overall, though, he said the judge's opinion represents a "significant victory" for public health.
"This ruling is an important step toward ending the special protection the tobacco industry has enjoyed for too long and finally regulating tobacco products to protect our children and the nation's health," he said.
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