Tobacco Company Sues Over New LawSep 1, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
In late June, President Barack Obama signed The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. The law will allow the federal government broad authority over tobacco products and will also allow regulators to control cigarette packaging and marketing as well as how much nicotine—the addictive component in cigarettes—is added in tobacco products, explained the Washington Post previously.
Now, some tobacco companies—R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Lorillard Inc.—are included in a group that just filed a federal lawsuit to block some of the provisions of the law, claiming it violates their rights to free speech under the U.S. constitution, reported Reuters. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is an arm or Reynolds American Inc., the maker of Camel and Winston brand cigarettes; Lorillard sells Newport cigarettes, said Reuters. Marlboro cigarettes are manufactured by the largest American tobacco company, Altria Group Inc., which is not involved in the lawsuit and supports the law, reported Reuters.
With the law in place, flavored cigarettes will be banned by this fall and shortly after—by January—tobacco manufacturers and importers will be required to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the ingredients used in their products, said USA Today previously. By April 2010, those makers will no longer be permitted to place their logos on “sporting, athletic or entertainment events, or on clothing and other promotional items,” said USA Today, adding that by July 2010, verbiage including the words “light,” “low,” or “mild” will be banned from tobacco product marketing. Finally, by 2011, all tobacco products must “carry larger and stronger warning labels,” reported USA Today.
The lawsuit alleges that the law places too many limits on the firms’ commercial rights to free speech given bans in place on television and radio ads said Reuters, which noted that the group is not arguing the agency’s right to regulate tobacco products. "Even prior to the act, plaintiffs had few avenues of communication for speaking to their adult consumers," the companies said in the lawsuit filed in a federal court in Kentucky. "The act imposes sweeping and unprecedented restrictions that effectively foreclose those avenues of communication that remain," Reuters quoted.
The companies are seeking an overturn of warning label bans, the ban on color and graphics in label and cigarette ads, and some of the bans on ads and sponsorship of sporting and other venues, said Reuters.
Some argue that 1st amendment issues were not appropriately addressed; however, proponents of the law cite the hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in health care linked to cigarette smoking annually. At the bill signing ceremony, President Obama said he is hoping to cut down the numbers of teens each day—estimated at about 1,000—who take up smoking. “I was one of these teenagers. And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time,” said Obama, quoted USA Today.
President Obama noted that the law’s focus is on ending kid-geared marketing, said USA Today. “The kids today don’t just start smoking for no reason. They’re aggressively targeted as customers by the tobacco industry. They’re exposed to a constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where they learn, and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it even more tempting,” President Obama said, quoted USA Today previously.