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A judge has ruled that tobacco companies do not have to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packages to show the dangers of smoking, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said it is likely the companies will win a lawsuit that claims the labels violate First Amendment protections for commercial speech. He said the labels do not have to be put on cigarette packages until the lawsuit is resolved, which could take years, according to the AP.

In September, tobacco manufacturers asked Judge Leon 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. The FDA wants the disturbing pictures to cover at least half of the front and back of a cigarette package by October 2012. The FDA also said the images must take up to at least 20 percent of each cigarette ad.

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.


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