Big tobacco sues FDA over cigarette warning labels

More than 1,200 people a day are killed by cigarettes in the United States alone, and 50 percent of all long-term smokers are killed by smoking-related diseases. Tobacco use is the cause of death for nearly one out of every five people in the United States, which adds up to about 443,000 deaths annually.
Smoking can kill you

(CBS/AP) Big tobacco is fuming over the graphic tobacco labels the FDA is forcing onto their packages.

PICTURES: World's most gruesome tobacco warning labels

Four major tobacco companies filed suit against the federal government Tuesday, saying the ads featuring images like a sewn-up smoker's corpse, or babies surrounded by smoke plumes, violate their free speech rights.

"Never before in the U.S. have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products," the companies wrote in the lawsuit, adding the images will cost millions to produce.

The companies argued the warnings no longer convey facts to allow consumers to make a decision on whether to smoke, but rather force government anti-smoking advocacy onto packs, more prominently than their own brands.

The FDA refused to comment on the pending litigation. But in June when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the labels, she called them "frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking."

The nine FDA-approved labels will be printed on the entire top half, front and back, of the packaging. The new warnings must constitute 20 percent of any cigarette advertising and include a stop-smoking hotline's number.

One warning label shows above a picture of corpse words: "Smoking can kill you." Another label depicts a healthy pair of lungs beside a blackened pair with a warning that smoking causes lung disease.

The lawsuit claims the images were manipulated to be especially emotional. The tobacco companies said the corpse photo is actually an actor with a fake scar, while the healthy lungs were sanitized to make the diseased organ look worse.

The companies that are part of the suit are Commonwealth Brands, Liggett Group, Lorillard Tobacco, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company. Altria Group Inc., parent company of the nation's largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, is not a part of the lawsuit.

Think the new labels are graphic? Wait until you see other countries' tobacco warning labels...