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The Associated Press August 16, 2011, 8:02PM ET

Tobacco companies file new warning label lawsuit

A group of tobacco companies is suing the Food and Drug Administration, claiming requirements for new cigarette warning labels violated their First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit is a new defense against the labels slated to appear in September 2012.

Lorillard Inc. filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and was joined by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC.

The companies want the court to stop the regulation from going into effect. They said the government cannot force tobacco companies to use labels that discourage use of their own products.

A group of tobacco companies similarly told a federal appeals court in July that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act improperly restricts their free speech rights.

The law authorizes the FDA to order companies to include graphic warnings about the health effects of smoking on cigarette labels. The warnings include close-up photos of a smoker's rotting teeth, a man exhaling smoke from a tracheotomy hole in his neck and the damaged heart muscle of a smoker.

The labels are designed to cover the top half of every cigarette package.

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