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Canada Act Riles Tobacco Companies

MONTREAL -- Canada's biggest tobacco companies challenged government regulations that force them to display health warnings on cigarettes and other products, including graphic photos of diseased mouths, lungs and other organs.

The new lawsuit also ask for changes in government regulations on advertising and an end to a ban on tobacco sponsorship of sporting events, according to the Associated Press.

Rothmans Benson and Hedges Inc., Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. and JTI-Macdonald Corp. argue the restrictions on where the companies can place their ads violate their right to freedom of expression under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The legislation bans tobacco advertising in broadcast outlets, billboards, street kiosks, bus panels and store displays and imposes restrictions on promotions in mailings and magazines.

The lawsuit is the latest legal battle between the tobacco industry and the Canadian government, which has passed some of the world's most stringent anti-smoking laws in recent years.

Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock said he's optimistic the federal law will withstand a court challenge. He added the tobacco companies are attacking anti-tobacco initiatives that are a model for countries around the world.

Cigarette companies in Canada are required to place warnings on products that include color photos of cigarette-damaged organs or the image of a drooping cigarette to symbolize impotence caused by smoking.
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