Cigarette makers lose appeal in landmark case

May 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A federal appeals court on Friday largely endorsed a landmark ruling that found cigarette makers deceived the public for decades about the heath hazards of smoking. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington upheld the major elements of a 2006 ruling that found the nation's top tobacco companies guilty of fraud and violating racketeering laws.

The ruling said manufacturers must change the way they market cigarettes. It bans labels such as "low tar," "light," "ultra light" or "mild," since such cigarettes have been found to be no safer than others because of how people smoke them.

It also says the companies must publish "corrective statements" on the adverse health effects and addictiveness of smoking and nicotine.

The changes have not taken affect while the case has been under appeal.

Throughout the 10 years the case has been litigated, tobacco companies have denied committing fraud in the past and said changes in how cigarettes are sold now make it impossible for them to act fraudulently in the future.

The defendants in the lawsuit were: Philip Morris USA Inc. and its parent, Altria Group Inc.; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.; British American Tobacco Ltd.; Lorillard Tobacco Co.; Liggett Group Inc.; Counsel for Tobacco Research-U.S.A.; and the now-defunct Tobacco Institute.

Liggett was excluded from the ruling because the judge said the company came forward in the 1990s to admit smoking causes disease and is addictive and cooperated with government investigators.

The companies had no immediate response to the appeals court decision.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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