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Tobacco manufacturers this week asked a federal judge to impose a temporary injunction to block the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirement that cigarette packs carry graphic images of the consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs and rotting teeth.

Justice Department attorney Mark Stern argued the graphic labels express the dangers of smoking more effectively than words alone. He told Judge Richard Leon the labels are needed to stop more people, especially teenagers, from smoking, according to Reuters. “The government’s interest here is not in preventing habits, it’s in preventing death,” Stern said.

The new cigarette 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 law requires the FDA to issue final regulations requiring color graphics illustrating the ugly consequences of smoking by June 22, 2011.

The FDA will require that the disturbing pictures cover at least half of the front and back of a cigarette package by October 2012. The FDA will also require that the images take up to at least 20 percent of each cigarette ad.

In August, five tobacco companies sued the federal government over the labels, claiming they violate First Amendment protections for commercial speech. Judge Leon said he hopes to have a ruling on the preliminary injunction by the end of October. Any decision is likely to be appealed, Reuters notes.


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