Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tobacco Suits "Light" Up

So much for the "light" cigarette claim. From this morning's Wall Street Journal:
A federal judge's decision to grant class-action status to tens of millions of smokers of "light cigarettes" exposes major tobacco companies to a new $200 billion claim for damages and will delay an expected plan by Philip Morris USA parent Altria Group Inc. to spin off its Kraft Foods Inc. unit.

U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein in Brooklyn, N.Y., made the pretrial ruling yesterday in a 2004 lawsuit alleging that Philip Morris USA, Reynolds American Inc.'s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco unit, among others, falsely marketed "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes as a lower-risk alternative to conventional higher-tar smokes.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that tobacco companies reaped between $120 billion and $200 billion in additional revenue because of what they describe as a pattern of deceiving the public about the dangers of smoking light cigarettes. Because the suit is being brought under federal racketeering law, the amount of damages in the case could be tripled.
I guess that $145 billion they got reprieve from in the Engle case in Florida might not be such a reprieve after all.


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