The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled nine proposed graphic warning labels this year that the agency intends to print on cigarette packs starting in 2012. The labels, which would cover half the surface area of each pack of cigarettes, are reminiscent of some of the grim images used in anti-smoking ads by thetruth.com, which relentlessly targets tobacco companies. So it was perhaps inevitable that in November, a federal judge put the FDA’s plan on hold, noting, on behalf of cigarette makers, that the graphic warnings — showing the diseased lungs of a smoker, for instance, or a smoker with a tracheostomy lighting up — may violate the First Amendment. The images, said the judge, cross the line from providing mere information to pushing a biased, anti-smoking advocacy message, which breaches constitutional restrictions on compelling speech by the government in commercial arenas. In December, 24 attorneys general filed a friend of the court brief in support of the FDA, saying the agency should be allowed to put the graphic labels on “lethal and addictive” tobacco products. The FDA maintains also that the benefit to the public in conveying the dangers of smoking outweighs tobacco companies’ free speech rights. The agency remains hopeful that if its proposed images aren’t allowed, other equally powerful labeling will be.