London: A Washington court has ruled that the United States Government cannot force tobacco firms to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages.
The US Court of Appeals Washington said the government`s plan undermined free speech in the United States.
According to the BBC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had wanted to put nine pictures of dead and diseased smokers to convey the dangers of cigarettes, but tobacco firms had argued that the images went beyond factual information and into anti-smoking advocacy.
The court said the case raised "novel questions about the scope of the government`s authority to force the manufacturer of a product to go beyond making purely factual and accurate commercial disclosures and undermine its own economic interest".
It added that the FDA "has not provided a shred of evidence" that the images would directly advance its policy aimed at reducing the number of smokers in America.
The verdict, which was welcomed by tobacco companies, comes as a number of other countries have ordered anti-smoking graphics to be placed on all cigarette packets, the report said.
Australia has gone a step further by banning tobacco companies from printing their logos on the cigarette cartons, it added.