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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld a decision barring the federal government from requiring tobacco companies to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Friday affirmed a lower court ruling that the requirement ran afoul of the First Amendment's free speech protections. The appeals court tossed out the requirement and told the Food and Drug Administration to go back to the drawing board.

Some of the nation's largest tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., sued to block the mandate to include warnings to show the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit lighting up.

They argued that the proposed warnings went beyond factual information into anti-smoking advocacy. The government argued the photos of dead and diseased smokers are factual.

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