On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined review of the appellate decision reversing the $10.1 billion verdict against cigarette maker, Phillip Morris. An Illinois judge had awarded the steep verdict to Illinois residents who were duped into believing that light cigarettes were healthier than the regular versions.
The case involved 1.1 million people who bought “light” cigarettes in Illinois. They claimed Philip Morris knew when it introduced such cigarettes in 1971 that they were no healthier than regular cigarettes but hid both that information and that light cigarettes actually had a more toxic form of tar.
On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the verdict. The reversal was based on the Federal Trade Commission’s decision to allow tobacco companies to use the terms “light” and “low tar.” Because the terms were allowed, the company could not be held liable for for misleading the public with the terms. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the $10.1 billion verdict finding that Phillip Morris did not fraudulently induce consumers to purchase light cigarettes by marketing them as a safer alternative.
Why did the FTC allow the tobacco companies to use these misleading labels? The tobacco industry has lobbyists who fight for laws to be enacted which actually favor big business, at the consumer’s expense. How can Joe Public fight back? By hitting the tobacco companies where it hurts, in the wallet!