Justices turn down smokers' lawsuit

By The Associated Press
03.18.08

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declined yesterday to consider a lawsuit accusing tobacco companies of turning minors into smokers by targeting them with cigarette advertising.

The California Supreme Court had ruled against the smokers last August, saying a federal law on cigarette advertising and the companies' First Amendment rights to commercial speech allowed the marketing campaigns.

The California case is Daniels v. Philip Morris USA Inc., 07-740.

At issue is whether the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act pre-empts California law. The California high court ruled that it does. The federal law confirms the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to regulate unfair or deceptive practices in cigarette advertising.

The smokers sued under California law barring unfair competition. The competition is alleged to be unfair in this case because competing tobacco companies that respect state law operate at a disadvantage.

Urging the Supreme Court to turn down the case, the tobacco companies said the federal law pre-empted any state law prohibition on cigarette ads if the prohibition is based on smoking and health.

In January, the Court agreed to decide another tobacco case on whether the federal law trumps state law. In that case, Maine smokers are suing tobacco companies for allegedly deceptive advertising of "light" cigarettes.