WASHINGTON -- The federal government, facing a court-imposed deadline and fierce opposition from the tobacco industry, has decided to abandon its legal fight to require cigarette makers to place large, graphic labels on their products warning of the dangers of smoking.
The decision is a setback for the Food and Drug Administration, which announced two years ago that it would require the manufacturers to include ghastly images on all cigarette packages. The proposed labels included pictures of disease-ridden lungs, the corpse of a smoker and the number of a hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
The FDA said Tuesday it will go back to the drawing board to "undertake research to support a new rule-making consistent with the Tobacco Control Act," the 2009 law that requires the agency to find ways to reduce the 440,000 annual deaths attributed to tobacco use.
Shortly after the FDA rolled out the new requirements in 2011, some of the largest cigarette makers, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Lorillard, sued, argued that the labels were too broad and violated the companies' First Amendment rights.