Cigarette makers launched a counterattack Aug. 16 against Food and Drug Administration requirements for graphic warning on tobacco products with a lawsuit in federal court.

Five top cigarette makers want the federal district court in Washington to overturn the federal mandate for stark pictures of the consequences of smoking that are to take up at least half of the front and back of the label on a cigarette pack.

Under the new rule, nine images are to be rotated. These warnings are also supposed to be part of cigarette advertising.

Included is an image of a man smoking a cigarette, with the exhaled smoke coming out of a tube in his trachea. Another shows an autopsied body, with the message “Smoking can kill you” on it.

When the images were released in June, marking the first major change to the warning labels in more than 25 years, according, they were characterized by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as honest warnings about smoking’s dangers.

But the tobacco companies vehemently disagree. “Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally-charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their product,” the lawsuit says, according to the Associated Press., the lawsuit says.

Instead of conveying facts that a consumer can use to make an informed decision, the FDA is, according to the suit, forcing cigarette makers to pay for the display of anti-smoking messages more prominently than their brand names.
The plaintiffs are R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands Inc., Liggett Group LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc. Altria Group Inc., parent company of Phillip Morris USA, is not participating in the lawsuit and has endorsed the FDA rules.

Unless a judge intervenes, the companies will have to start displaying the new labels by the fall of 2012.

The FDA did not comment, saying they do not comment on pending litigation, according to International Business Times.