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Court Upholds Rules on Tobacco Ads

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld most of the strict regulations on tobacco advertising imposed by Massachusetts last year, ruling they do not violate the free speech rights of tobacco companies.

The court largely upheld lower court rulings against cigarette, smokeless tobacco and cigar companies that sued the state over and health-warning label requirements and bans on outdoor advertising and advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

But the court said the state attorney general would have to reformulate regulations governing cigar advertising.

The state cannot regulate such advertising on Web sites or in national magazines distributed in Massachusetts, the court ruled. Nor can it hold manufacturers responsible if their products are sold in Massachusetts, even by a third party, without the required warning label.

Massachusetts was the first state to require a conspicuous warning label covering at least 25 percent of the front or top panel of every package of cigars. Warnings would also cover at least 20 percent of any advertisement.

The ruling consolidated a variety of challenges to the regulations by Lorillard Tobacco Co., Brown and Williamson Corp., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris, as well as several cigar and tobacco exporting companies.

Tobacco and cigar companies argued the regulations were pre-empted by federal law and violated the First Amendment.

But the court ruled that Congress had not intended for the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act to stop states from imposing their own regulations, and the regulations do not violate free speech rights because they are ``proportionate to the state's purposes.''

``Clearly we're disappointed,'' said Brendan McCormick, a spokesman for Philip Morris Inc. ``We challenged several of those regulations because we believe that several of them unduly restrict our ability to market a legal product to adult smokers.'' He said the decision may be appealed.

Attempts to reach spokesmen for Lorillard, Brown and Williamson and R.J. Reynolds and several of the cigar companies Monday night were unsuccessful.


JUSTIN POPE, Associated Press Writer, (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation

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