California Court Rejects 'Lights' Cigarettes Claims Against Altria
By John Kell
Altria Group Inc. (MO) on Tuesday said a California Superior Court issued a ruling in favor of the tobacco giant, rejecting plaintiffs' efforts to impose a fine due to alleged false advertising on "Lights" cigarettes.
The plaintiffs claimed in a lawsuit originally filed in June 1997 that Altria'sPhilip Morris USA unit violated state law by using the terms "Lights" and "Lowered Tar and Nicotine" on cigarette packages. Altria said plaintiffs sought to recover some money paid by California smokers who purchased Marlboro Lights between 1998 and 2001.
But Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager rejected the request for injunctive relief. In his decision, he wrote plaintiffs waived any right to relief or corrective advertising in the Master Settlement Agreement, a pact that has led Altria to pay California$5.8 billion, with more payments to continue.
The Food and Drug Administration now prohibits the use of "lights" and other descriptors unless a manufacturer receives authorization for such terms. The FDA began regulating tobacco products in 2009, after the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law.
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Corrections and Amplifications
This item was corrected at 00:14 GMT. The original misstated the time frame in which plaintiffs sought to recover money paid by California smokers who purchased Marlboro Lights. The correct time frame is between 1998 and 2001, not 1998 and 2011 as previously stated.
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