Big cigarette makers sue FDA over law

Major cigarette makers sue over new tobacco lawRICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- 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.

The companies say they are prohibited from using "color lettering, trademarks, logos or any other imagery in most advertisements, including virtually all point-of-sale and direct-mail advertisements," according to the 46-page complaint.

The law also prohibits tobacco companies from "making truthful statements about their products in scientific, public policy and political debates," the companies claim in their complaint.

Reynolds spokesman David Howard said the company doesn't oppose the whole law, just portions of it.

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 Kentucky-based Commonwealth Brands, which is owned by Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group PLC.