Cigarette Firms Sue Government Over Marketing Strictures : Shots - Health News A federal lawsuit by Big Tobacco asserts a new law goes too far in restricting their ability to market to adults.
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Cigarette Firms Sue Government Over Marketing Strictures

Here come a bunch of tobacco companies to the federal court house in Bowling Green, Ky., to snuff out a new law they claim would put the kibosh on their ability to market cigarettes in this country.

Get ready for more fine print. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Get ready for more fine print.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The legal fight is likely to be waged all the way to the Supreme Court, as the companies seek to overturn a federal law banning the use of "color lettering, trademarks, logos, or any other imagery in most advertisements" among other things. The restrictions would also apply to displays in stores, direct-mail ads, and even hats and t-shirts.

Most galling to companies, as their complaint tells it, would be a government takeover of the top half of cigarette packs for anti-tobacco images and messages, leaving only the bottom for the companies "to communicate with adult consumers." Even that message would likely be obscured in stores, the companies say.

It's all a plot to do in the cigarette makers, the complaint charges. "The obvious purpose of this is to force Plaintiffs to stigmatize their own products through their own packaging," they say. Taken together, the restrictions would leave them unable to tell their story to adult consumers, the companies assert. That, they say, violates their rights to free speech, something they want an injunction to stop.

The challenge comes as the Food and Drug Administration, recently empowered to regulate tobacco, prepares to implement regulations.

No surprise the tobacco companies would push back. Richard Daynard, a professor at the Northeastern School of Law and chairman of its Tobacco Products Liability Project, told the New York Times, "It was perfectly clear there was going to be a constitutional challenge, and I think it will survive the challenge."

Blogger Mark Senek at Eye on FDA predicts legal failure for the companies because cigarettes are nothing more than a delivery system for the nicotine, a drug regulated by the FDA.

Senek, a PR man, concludes, "the whole thing smacks of corporate hubris for which the public has little stomach, especially right now."

He asserts "smart companies" should have followed the lead of Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, which supported the legislation giving FDA regulatory power over tobacco. Altria also isn't part of the lawsuit challenging the marketing restrictions.