Major cigarette makers sue over new tobacco law

RICHMOND, Va. – Two of the three largest U.S. tobacco companies filed suit against federal authorities Monday, claiming a law that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration new authority over tobacco violates their right to free speech.

RICHMOND, Va. – Two of the three largest U.S. tobacco companies filed suit against federal authorities Monday, claiming a law that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration new authority over tobacco violates their right to free speech.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Camel cigarettes, and Lorillard Inc., which sells Newport menthol brand, filed the federal lawsuit with several other tobacco companies.

Part of the bill, passed in June, covers cigarette marketing. The lawsuit doesn’t challenge the decision to give the FDA authority over tobacco products. But the tobacco makers claim provisions of the law "severely restrict the few remaining channels we have to communicate with adult tobacco consumers," Martin L. Holton III, senior vice president and general counsel for Reynolds, said in a statement.

FDA spokeswoman Kathleen Quinn said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Joining in the suit filed U.S. District Court in Bowling Green, Ky., are: National Tobacco Co., Discount Tobacco City & Lottery Inc., and Commonwealth Brands, which is owned by Britain’s Imperial Tobacco Group PLC.

The makers name the FDA, the government and individual leaders as defendants in the lawsuit.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act allows the FDA to reduce nicotine in tobacco products, ban candy flavorings and block labels such "low tar" and "light."

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