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Groups ask federal court to block FDA’s tobacco warning rule

Groups ask federal court to block FDA’s tobacco warning rule

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Business groups are urging a federal court to uphold an order blocking the Food and Drug Administration from implementing a rule requiring tobacco product makers to place large, graphic warnings on product packaging.

In June, the FDA unveiled the new warnings – which feature graphic images such as diseased lungs, cancerous mouth sores and an autopsied corpse – and required them to be placed on the packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products by the fall of 2012 pursuant to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

But tobacco companies sued and won an injunction blocking implementation of the labeling rule. The FDA’s appeal is now before the D.C. Circuit.

In amicus briefs filed with the court, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Legal Foundation argued that the labeling rule violates the First Amendment.

“The Supreme Court’s restrictions on compelled speech should not be relaxed simply because, as here, the speaker being compelled is a commercial entity,” WLF Senior Litigation Counsel Cory Andrews said in a statement after filing WLF’s brief. “If the government wishes to convey a message, it should do so by using its own property and resources, not by commandeering the private property of others who disagree with that message.”

In its brief, the Chamber of Commerce called the regulation a “radical departure from traditional government efforts to regulate speech insofar as they force commercial enterprises to disparage the very products that they are lawfully marketing.”

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