US tobacco companies are suing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over recent guidelines about labelling of tobacco products.
The companies, including R J Reynolds Tobacco, Altria Group and Lorillard Tobacco have filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia claiming that the guidance given by FDA violates their free-speech rights by mandating pre-approval of labelling changes, The Associated Press reported.
Since 2009, the FDA has been given rights to regulate tobacco including the power to pre-review new tobacco products that are significantly different from older ones existing in the market.
In March, FDA issued new rules, under which changing background colour of an existing product from green to red, changing its logo or adding words such as 'premium tobacco' will make it a new product requiring agency approval.
The cigarette companies, however, claim that manufacturers should be allowed to modify the tobacco packaging as they wish because FDA is restricted to preapprove tobacco labels of Marlboro, Camel and Newport cigarettes, under the 2009 Tobacco Control Act.
Altria spokesman Brian May was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying: "We disagree that FDA's new requirements that manufacturers must obtain agency authorisation before changing certain product labels when the actual physical tobacco product remains exactly the same.
"We're asking the court to resolve these issues."
The companies also claim that FDA has prior review authority for labels on tobacco products that represent a modified risk, or to be less harmful than other tobacco products.