WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether tobacco companies can be sued in state courts over allegedly deceptive advertising of "light" cigarettes.
The issue before the justices is whether federal law bars such lawsuits. The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act says states can't impose any requirements on the advertising or promotion of cigarettes.
A federal judge initially threw out a lawsuit filed by three Maine residents against Altria Group Inc. and its Philip Morris USA Inc. The lawsuit alleged that the advertising of light cigarettes was unfair and deceptive.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reinstated the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs said they smoked Marlboro Lights, made by Philip Morris, for at least 15 years. They contend that the company marketed the cigarettes as "light" and having "lowered tar and nicotine" despite knowing that those statements were false.
The company has research, the plaintiffs say, that shows it knew that smokers of the light cigarettes took deeper puffs and used other techniques to ensure they received as much nicotine as they would have gotten from regular cigarettes.
Philip Morris said the lawsuit was properly dismissed by the federal judge and called on the high court to resolve a conflict between appeals courts' over these sorts of lawsuits.
The case the Court agreed on Jan. 18 to hear is Altria Group v. Good, 07-562.