A U.S. judge said he will hear the tobacco industry’s request for a preliminary injunction on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirement that cigarette packages carry graphic warning labels on September 21.
The labels are designed to warn consumers about the risks of smoking, Reuters reports. Judge Richard Leon said he hopes to have a decision in October. Any decision by the judge is likely to be appealed, the article notes.
Five tobacco companies are suing the federal government over the labels, which are scheduled to be on all packages by the fall of 2012. The manufacturers claim the labels violate First Amendment protections for commercial speech.
The new cigarette labels carry graphic images of the consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs and rotting teeth. The new labels are a result of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products.
The tobacco companies said they need a quick ruling on the labels because they would need to start gearing up at the end of this year, and spend millions of dollars, to comply with the FDA’s requirements. Reuters notes attorneys at the Justice Department said the money was a small fraction of their net sales.