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Judge Blocks FDA Plan for Graphic Cigarette Warnings
Date:11/8/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's plans to require graphic warning labels on cigarette packs was derailed temporarily Monday when a federal judge blocked the effort, suggesting it was a violation of the tobacco industry's First Amendment free-speech rights.

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia said it was likely that the tobacco industry would succeed in a lawsuit to overturn the requirement, so he blocked the FDA initiative until the court case is resolved, which could take years, the Associated Press reported.

Leon said the nine graphic images, which were approved by the FDA and due to start appearing in September 2012, did more than simply convey facts about the health risks of smoking -- they took an advocacy stance, a key distinction in a free-speech case, the news service said.

"It is abundantly clear from viewing these images that the emotional response they were crafted to induce is calculated to provoke the viewer to quit, or never to start smoking -- an objective wholly apart from disseminating purely factual and uncontroversial information," Leon wrote in his 29-page opinion.

The nine proposed images, which are designed to fill the top half of all cigarette packs, have stirred controversy since the concept first emerged in 2009.

One image shows a man's face and a lighted cigarette in his hand, with smoke escaping from a hole in his neck -- the result of a tracheotomy. The caption reads "Cigarettes are addictive." Another image shows a mother holding a baby as smoke swirls about them, with the warning: "Tobacco smoke can harm your children."

A third image depicts a distraught woman with the caption: "Warning: Smoking causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers."

A fourth picture shows a mouth with smoked-stained teeth and an open sore on the lower lip. "Cigar
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