U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court Allows Suits for Deceptive Marketing of Light Cigarettes
Posted Dec 15, 2008 10:26 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing deceptive advertising lawsuits against the makers of light cigarettes to go forward.
At issue in Altria Group v. Good was whether state tort claims were pre-empted by federal law or by Federal Trade Commission actions allowing the use of “light” and “low tar” in tobacco advertising. Plaintiffs suing Altria and its subsidiary Philip Morris USA contend the companies knew that smokers compensated for lower tar and nicotine by taking longer puffs. The suit claims the companies deliberately misled consumers.
Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority decision. He was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bloomberg reports.
The court considered whether a federal labeling law that bars state requirements “based on smoking and health” pre-empted the common law claim against cigarette makers for misleading ads. Stevens found there was no pre-emption, likening the marketing claim in Altria to the common law fraud claim allowed in the 1992 decision Cipollone v. Liggett Group.
“We conclude, as we did in Cipollone, that the Labeling Act does not pre-empt state-law claims like respondents’ that are predicated on the duty not to deceive,” Stevens wrote for the majority. “We also hold that the FTC’s various decisions with respect to statements of tar and nicotine content do not impliedly pre-empt respondents’ claim.”
Updated at 10:04 a.m. to include Bloomberg information and at 10:37 a.m. to include information from the opinion.