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Supreme Court Ruling is Victory for Consumers Deceived by Tobacco Companies About Light Cigarettes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 11, 2007

Washington, DC — The U.S. Supreme Court today delivered an important victory for consumers by ruling that a class-action lawsuit against Philip Morris alleging the fraudulent marketing and sale of “light” cigarettes can be heard in state court, in this case in Arkansas. In overturning a lower court ruling, the Court unanimously rejected Philip Morris’ argument that such cases should only be heard in federal court because they claimed that tobacco companies acted as “officers” of the United States government in their testing and marketing of light cigarettes. Only a tobacco company would have the gall to argue that its deceptive practices are government-sanctioned acts.

This ruling allows plaintiffs the opportunity to pursue the numerous “lights” class-action cases that have been filed in state court, including a case that has already been certified by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. This ruling shows that these cases remain a serious legal threat to the tobacco industry and hold significant potential for holding the tobacco companies accountable for their harmful and deceptive marketing of “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes.

As Federal Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in the Justice Department’s racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco companies and as numerous health authorities, including the National Cancer Institute, have found, the tobacco companies for decades have deceived consumers and deterred smokers from quitting by marketing “light” cigarettes as less hazardous despite knowing from their own research that this was not the case. The consequences have been devastating for the nation’s health.