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Appeals Panel Upholds Most of Decision Against Big Tobacco

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An appeals court panel has ruled against big tobacco in an important cigarette marketing case.  According to Dow Jones News Wire, a three judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld most of a lower court ruling which found that the industry’s deceptive marketing schemes violated federal anti-racketeering statutes.

This is the second important  appeal the tobacco industry has lost in recent months.  Late last year, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1965 Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act does not protect cigarette makers from fraud lawsuits over how those makers market cigarettes they describe as “light or “low tar.” Also, the high court said federal oversight of cigarette testing did not preclude those lawsuits. 

According to Dow Jones News Wire,  the case involved in this appeal stems back to 1999.   At that time, the  Clinton administration charged that nine tobacco companies and two related trade associations engaged in a 50-year conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. The original 2006 case had resulted in a lower court banning labels such as “low tar” and “light for cigarettes.

In addition to banning labels like “low tar” for cigarettes, the 2006 decision also required manufacturers to issue corrective statements about the dangers of their products, which would appear on television, newspapers, product packaging and countertop displays in retail outlets.

For the most part, the appeals panel backed the original decision, Dow Jones said.  In their  92-page ruling, the judges said that  tobacco firms “knew about the negative health consequences of smoking, the addictiveness and manipulation of nicotine, the harmfulness of secondhand smoke, and the concept of smoker compensation, which makes light cigarettes no less harmful than regular cigarettes and possibly more.”

According to Dow Jones, the panel upheld the restrictions on tobacco marketing and the corrective statement requirement. However, the judges rejected efforts to force the tobacco industry to fund a $10 billion national smoking-cessation campaign, and it affirmed an earlier ruling that  at the government couldn’t force the tobacco companies to forfeit up to $280 billion in profits.

The decision could be appealed, either to the full appeals court, or the U.S. Supreme Court,  Dow Jones said.

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