The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that tobacco companies may be sued in state court over the allegedly deceptive advertising of "light" cigarettes.
The original lawsuit in Altria Group, Inc. v. Good was filed by Maine residents who were longtime smokers of Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights cigarettes, manufactured by defendant Philip Morris USA and its parent Altria Group, Inc. The plaintiffs allege that Philip Morris's advertising is deliberately deceptive in that it conveys the message that "light" cigarettes deliver less tar and nicotine to consumers than regular brands. In Monday's 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs' claims under Maine's Unfair Trade Practices Act were not pre-empted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, and the case may proceed in state court.
According to Reuters, Monday's decision from the nation's top court "could affect some 40 suits around the country seeking billions of dollars." The Los Angeles Times reports that, although in 1998 tobacco companies agreed on a $206 billion settlement over healthcare costs associated with smoking, that agreement was with 46 states and does not prevent the filing of private lawsuits.