Tobacco execs: Graphic labels unfair, unconstitutional

There's a fine balance between the government's responsibility to protect its people and the people's right to make their own choices. But what about a company's right to market life-threatening products?

Four of the five largest U.S. tobacco companies sued the federal government Tuesday, saying mandatory graphic labels violate their free speech rights. The FDA mandates the warnings, which feature close-up photos of rotting teeth, a tracheotomy hole and a before and after comparison of a smoker's heart muscle.

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Companies like R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. say the labels no longer convey simple facts to allow people to make a decision on whether to smoke. Instead, execs believe the government is pushing its anti-smoking agenda more prominently on their packs than their own brands.

Tobacco executives are also say the labels with cost millions to produce and want a judge to stop the requirement. The lawsuit is a new defense against the labels, which will debut in September 2012.

Do you think the government is violating the companies' right to free speech? How involved should the government be with our health? Weigh in below and on our Facebook page.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)