This FDA image released on June 21, 2011 shows one of the new proposed cigarette warning labels. Beginning September 2012, FDA will require larger, more prominent cigarette health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States. These warnings mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are a significant advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking. UPI/FDA | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Five tobacco companies filed a second lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of regulations and graphic warning labels under a 2009 U.S. law.
The new suit, filed Tuesday, challenges specific regulations that led to the Food and Drug Administration choosing nine graphic warning labels, The New York Times reported.
The companies lost a similar complaint last year when a U.S. district judge in Kentucky ruled they could be forced to print graphic images and warnings that cover the top half of cigarette packages by the fall of 2012. The ruling was appealed to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hasn't ruled.
Floyd Abrams, a lawyer representing Lorillard, said such strategy of filing two suits wasn't unusual for when controversial regulations follow a controversial law. The new suit was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia.
Abrams said the labels and images -- which include a corpse and a man blowing smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his neck -- violate First Amendment protections for commercial speech.
"The government can require warnings which are straightforward and essentially uncontroversial, but they can't require a cigarette pack to serve as a mini-billboard for the government's anti-smoking campaign," Abrams told the Times.
Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the only new facts in the second lawsuit were the nine label pictures.
"Having raised the same issues before the court in Kentucky and lost, Lorillard is obviously forum shopping to try to find a judge somewhere who will rule in their favor," Myers told the Times.
The lawsuit was filed by Lorillard, the third-largest U.S. cigarette-maker; R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest maker; and three smaller companies. Altria, parent company of Philip Morris, supported the law.