In High Stakes Games Of Semantics, Supreme Court Places Blame On FTC

According to USA Today, big tobacco saved a ton of money yesterday.

The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Philip Morris USA, declining to disturb a court ruling that threw out a $10.1 billion verdict over the company’s “light” cigarettes.
Last year, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the massive fraud judgment against Philip Morris, a unit of Altria Group (MO) based in Richmond, Va., in a class-action lawsuit involving “light” cigarettes.
Because the Federal Trade Commission allowed companies to characterize their cigarettes as “light” and “low tar,” Philip Morris could not be held liable under state law even if the terms it used could be found false or misleading, the state court said.
The case involved 1.1 million people who bought “light” cigarettes in Illinois. They said Philip Morris knew when it introduced such cigarettes in 1971 that they were no healthier than regular cigarettes, but hid that information and the fact that light cigarettes actually had a more toxic form of tar.

Had the decision gone the other way, tobacco companies may have been forced to put their light brands out to pasture.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.