Obama Chides Tobacco Cos. for Fighting Warning Labels

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Obama Chides Tobacco Cos. for Fighting Warning Labels


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ten days after the tobacco companies won round one in their legal challenge against the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new cigarette warning labels, President Obama is now weighing in on the issue.

In a new White House web video observing today's 36th Great American Smokeout, the president said some tobacco companies are fighting the nine graphic warnings because "they don't want to be honest about the consequences," the Associated Press reported.

Obama, a former smoker who was pronounced tobacco-free in his last medical checkup, noted the country has made progress in reducing the number of Americans who smoke, but added that 46 million are still addicted.

"The fact is, quitting smoking is hard. Believe me, I know," said the president, whose efforts to quit smoking have been well documented in the media.

In June 2009, Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products. Subsequently, Congress directed the FDA to update the existing cigarette label warnings as part of its regulatory duties. The existing warnings date back to 1984.

This past June, the FDA released the new nine warnings -- containing both graphic text and images -- to be included on all cigarette packaging and advertising by September 2012.

Four tobacco companies responded to the mandate by filing a legal challenge in August. The lawsuit, filed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC, contends that the new warning labels violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment. The plaintiffs argue that it is unconstitutional to force tobacco companies to disseminate the government's anti-smoking message, as CSNews Online reported in August.

On Nov. 7, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted a temporary injunction blocking the rules requiring the new warning labels, because he determined the tobacco companies would likely win their lawsuit.