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The Obama Administration has appealed a decision by a federal judge that requiring graphic images on cigarette labels violates free speech protected by the Constitution. On Monday, the Administration filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to Reuters.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon blocked the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirement that tobacco companies add graphic warning labels to cigarette packages by September 2012. The labels are meant to inform the public of the dangers of smoking.

Judge Leon temporarily blocked the label requirements in November. The Obama Administration appealed the ruling. Last week, he wrote the images on the cigarette labels “were neither designed to protect the consumer from confusion or deception, nor to increase consumer awareness of smoking risks; rather, they were crafted to evoke a strong emotional response calculated to provoke the viewer to quit or never start smoking.” He said the government can use alternate means of dissuading people from smoking, including advertising, raising tobacco taxes, and improving ways to reduce youth access to tobacco.

The labels include 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. The FDA also said the images must take up to at least 20 percent of each cigarette ad.

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