Corrective Statement Ruling Not Tied to Warning Labels Case

Kessler says similarities not justification for delay

WASHINGTON-- A ruling on what cigarette makers must say in advertising about the dangers of smoking will not await an appeals court decision in a related case, a federal judge said, according to a Bloomberg report.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, who in 2006 found that tobacco companies violated the law by conspiring to hide the dangers of cigarettes, said late last week that the public should not have to wait "one or more years" for a ruling in a separate case involving U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rules.

Kessler is considering the proposed so-called corrective statements that tobacco companies may be forced by the government to put in advertisements. They include health warnings and confessions of past wrongdoing.

She said the statements are "necessary to prevent and restrain" tobacco companies from "making fraudulent public statements" on the health effects of smoking.

"The mere fact that First Amendment issues are being raised in both cases does not provide sufficient justification to delay the corrective action statements issue," Kessler said in her ruling.

The defendants include Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA unit, Reynolds American Inc.'s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Inc.'s Lorillard Tobacco.

Steve Callahan, an Altria spokesperson, declined to comment to the news agency on Kessler's ruling.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington is reviewing a decision by another judge, who ruled in November that ordering tobacco companies, including Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds, to display images of diseased lungs and a cadaver with chest staples on an autopsy table may "unconstitutionally compelled speech."

Click here to view the FDA's cigarette warning labels.

Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage of the cigarette warning labels.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon postponed the Sept. 22, 2012, deadline for the regulations to take effect while he reviews the constitutionality of the FDA rule.

Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds, Commonwealth Brands Inc., Liggett Group LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc. sued the FDA in August, claiming its mandates for cigarette packages, cartons and advertising violate the First Amendment.

The case is U.S. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., 99-cv-02496, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).