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Tobacco industry sues over new packaging


Tobacco industry sues over new packaging

Adam Russett August 17, 2011

Nine new graphic labels for cigarettes are being released soon and they have been the topic of a lot of controversy. So much so, in fact, that five different tobacco companies have decided to sue the government for imposing the images on their product. 

"The primary complaint is that we think it violates the First Amendment for the government to require people who produce a lawful product to essentially urge prospective purchasers not to buy it," said Floyd Abrams, who's representing the plaintiffs, according to CNN.com.

The new pictures, which were first shown off earlier this summer, aren't supposed to be implemented until September 2012. The written wording isn't the issue for Abrams, but he is adamant about having other features on the box that actively discourage customers from purchasing it.

"What is at issue is putting photographs of diseased people on every cigarette pack, include a phone number, and ask people to stop smoking. It's the direct advocacy to not buy the product, as opposed to a straightforward warning," he explained, the news source reports.

The labels originally come from President Obama, who signed the initiative into effect in 2009. Anti-smoking groups have been vastly supportive of the measure, with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids lauding it as "the most significant change in US cigarette warnings since they were first required in 1965." They have not only caused controversy because of the impact they could have on sales, but raised questions about what kind of packaging is appropriate for people to see on an everyday basis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 5 million people around the world die each year from smoking. In the United States, cigarettes are responsible for one out of every five American deaths. On average, smokers die 13 or 14 years earlier than non-smokers.