Tobacco companies' lawsuit: New FDA guidelines violate free speech

Tobacco companies say the FDA has overstepped its authority when it comes to packaging changes.

Story highlights

  • Companies including Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds in suit alleging violation of free speech
  • In March, the FDA issued guidance about changes to tobacco product labels
  • If significant changes are made to a product's label, like color or a logo, the product requires new approval

(CNN)Tobacco companies including Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds filed suit this week against the Food and Drug Administration alleging that the FDA is violating the companies' free speech rights.

In March, the FDA issued guidance that if significant changes are made to a product's label, like color or a logo, the product requires new approval from the administration. This holds true even if the product was previously approved.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, argues that those guidelines go too far and are too vague. They violate the First Amendment because they pre-emptively restrict free speech and exceed the scope of the Tobacco Control Act, the companies claim.
    The FDA's actions, the suit says, do not advance a substantial government interest.
    The plaintiffs also include U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., American Snuff Co., Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co.
    FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said the administration does not comment on litigation.