The government is abandoning a legal battle to require that cigarette packs carry a set of large and often macabre warning labels depicting the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit.
Instead, the Food and Drug Administration will start over and create labels to replace those that included images of diseased lungs and the sewn-up corpse of a smoker, according to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder obtained by the Associated Press.
The government had until Monday to ask the Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision upholding a ruling that the requirement violated First Amendment free speech protections. Holder's letter notified House Speaker John Boehner of the decision.
Some of the nation's largest tobacco companies sued to block the mandate to include warnings on cigarette packs as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The nine labels originally set to appear on store shelves last year would have represented the biggest change in cigarette packs in the United States in 25 years.
The graphic warnings proposed by the FDA included color images of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, and a plume of cigarette smoke enveloping an infant receiving a mother's kiss. These were accompanied by assertions that smoking causes cancer and can harm fetuses. The warnings were to cover the entire top half of cigarette packs, front and back, and include the phone number for a stop-smoking hotline.
Warning labels first appeared on cigarette packs in 1965; current warning labels that feature a small box with text were put on cigarette packs in the mid 1980s.