Rehearing denied in cigarette images case

Dec. 5, 2012 at 2:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court in Washington Wednesday refused to rehear a case in which a federal judge struck down graphic images on cigarette packages.

The refusal came in a two-sentence unsigned order.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule last year requiring the revolving display of nine new warnings in text along with the graphic images. The images included displays such as a cadaver and a diseased lung and were to be added in September.

However, the five major tobacco companies filed suit saying the new requirements violated the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington issued a preliminary injunction against the regulation, saying, "Although the FDA conveniently refers to these graphic images as 'graphic warnings,' characterizing these graphic images as 'warnings' is inaccurate and unfair as they are more about shocking and repelling than warning."

In February, he ruled summarily for the tobacco companies.

"These mandatory graphic images violate the First Amendment by unconstitutionally compelling speech," Leon said.

An appeals court panel in Washington upheld the judge in a 2-1 August.

The FDA had no immediate comment but has 90 days to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case, the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal reported.

The newspaper said a conflict in appeals court rulings -- an appeals court panel in Cincinnati approved the graphic images in March -- makes it more likely the U.S. Supreme Court will review the issue if asked.

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