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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked a federal appeals court this week to undo a lower court ruling that said graphic cigarette warning labels are unconstitutional. The labels are accurate, and are necessary to warn consumers about the risks of smoking, the FDA argued.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon blocked the FDA requirement that tobacco companies add graphic warning labels to cigarette packages by September 2012. The Obama Administration appealed the ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard that appeal Tuesday.

The appeals court has not yet ruled on the case. Any decision is likely to be appealed further, and could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Reuters.

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. 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.

In late March, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit upheld most of that law, including the FDA’s ability to require graphic warning labels on cigarette packages.


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