Commonwealth Brands, Inc., et al. v. United States, et al.

Several tobacco companies challenged the constitutionality of a federal tobacco control law that placed various restrictions on advertising in an effort to decrease the incidence of tobacco use among young people.  Among other things, the law: (1) required that text on advertisements and labels be printed in black against a white background; (2) mandated that graphic warnings be displayed on a specified portion of product packaging and advertisements; (3) prohibited the conveyance of information that a certain tobacco product posed less health risks than others; (4) restricted all outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of playgrounds and schools; (5) prohibited sponsorship of certain events; and (6) prohibited distribution of a variety promotional items.  The Court held that most of the challenged regulations withstood the free speech and due process allegations levied by the tobacco companies.  However, the Court found that two restrictions constituted overly broad regulations of speech: (1) the ban on colors and graphics in advertising; and (2) the prohibition on stating or implying that compliance with government regulations lessened the health risks of tobacco products. Additionally, the Court found that the restriction on outdoor advertising was not a current controversy ripe for judicial review and that the Court lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the restrictions comprised an unconstitutional taking of property.


Commonwealth Brands, Inc., et al. v. United States, et al., 678 F. Supp. 2d 512, United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky (2010).

  • United States
  • Jan 14, 2010
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky, Bowling Green Division



  • Commonwealth Brands, Inc.
  • Conwood Company, LLC
  • Discount Tobacco City and Lottery, Inc.
  • Lorillard Tobacco Company
  • National Tobacco Company, L.P.
  • R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company


  • Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • United States of America

Legislation Cited

International/Regional Instruments Cited

Related Documents

Type of Litigation

Tobacco Control Topics

Substantive Issues

Type of Tobacco Product