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Judge Throws Out Cigarette Ad Suit

Two big tobacco companies have lost a round in a legal fight to stop California´s tough anti-smoking ads. A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by RJ Reynolds and Lorillard, which together claim 35 percent of California´s tobacco market.

The cigarette makers sued to stop ads they claim vilify tobacco companies and their executives. One of the ads shows cigarettes raining down on school children, while a narrator says, “We have to sell cigarettes to your kids. We need half a million new smokers every year just to stay in business.”

The case hinged on whether the ads could be considered “compelled speech,” in which the tobacco companies are forced to pay for ads they don´t agree with.

The two companies argued the ads violate their First Amendment rights. But the federal judge sided with the state, saying no one could possibly confuse the ads as the tobacco companies´ own speech.

Attorneys for California argued that it´s the government that pays for the ads. The state uses part of an 87-cent tax for every pack of cigarettes sold to pay for health education, including an anti-smoking ad campaign.

RJ Reynolds says it will appeal.