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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge is expressing doubts about whether the government can force tobacco companies to post graphic images on their cigarette packages showing the health effects of smoking.

In a two-hour hearing Wednesday in Washington, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon closely questioned a government lawyer on whether the nine graphic images convey just the facts about the health risks of smoking or go beyond that into advocacy -- a critical distinction in a case over free speech.

The cigarette companies are suing in an effort to block the Food and Drug Administration from imposing the requirement. It would go into effect a year from now.

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