R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Camel and Winston cigarettes, along with other tobacco makers have filed suit against federal authorities on Monday claiming their right to free speech has been violated by a new tobacco law.
The suit, filed against the FDA in a federal district court in Bowling Green, Ky., the home of one of the plaintiffs, Commonwealth Brands Inc., seeks to overturn portions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which took effect in June.
The FDA doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits, an FDA spokeswoman said.
While the suit doesn’t challenge the decision to give the agency authority over tobacco products, it claims provisions of the law “restrict the few remaining channels we have to communicate with adult tobacco consumers and, in our opinion, cannot be justified on any basis consistent with the demands of the First Amendment,” Martin L. Holton III, senior vice president and general counsel for Reynolds, said in a statement.
According to the 46-page complaint, the companies are barred from using “color lettering, logos, trademarks or other imagery in most advertisements, including virtually all point-of-sale and direct-mail advertisements.
The law also bans tobacco companies from “making truthful statements about their products in scientific, public policy and political debates.”
Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA is unable to outright ban nicotine or tobacco products, but has the authority to reduce nicotine in tobacco products, ban candy flavorings, block labels such as “light” and “low tar,” and prohibit certain marketing campaigns, particularly aimed at children.
Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA, is absent from the lawsuit.
According to estimates by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 243,412 kids have become regular smokers in 2009. Of which 81,558 will die prematurely from their addiction. #