Company says it never claimed light cigarettes are safer smoke
EDWARDSVILLE - Lawyers for cigarette maker Philip Morris, which is on trial in Madison County for allegedly defrauding smokers of light cigarettes, say the company has never claimed light cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes.
"There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. If you're concerned about your health, you should quit," said John Mulderig, a Philip Morris attorney, during an interview.
The trial for the class-action, consumer-fraud lawsuit began Jan. 21. Attorneys involved in the case expect the trial to end in a week or two.
The lawsuit claims Philip Morris defrauded about 1.1 million Illinois smokers by leading them to believe Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights produce less nicotine and tar than regular cigarettes.
The suit also seeks punitive damages, and alleges that the light cigarettes are actually more harmful because people smoke them harder in order to get a desired level of nicotine.
The defense argues that the federal government labeled light cigarettes as safer, based on government tests. But the plaintiff attorneys claim the company designed light cigarettes to perform well on machine tests, knowing people would still get just as much tar and nicotine from the light cigarettes.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs predict that if Philip Morris is hit with punitive damages, the company will have to take light cigarettes off the market or rename them.
The defense began presenting its case Feb. 13. Richard Carchman, a scientist who works as a consultant for Philip Morris, testified this week that tests do not show that Marlboro Lights are more dangerous than regular Marlboros.
David Horan, a plaintiffs attorney, asked Carchman about his contract with Philip Morris, which calls for Carchman to be paid $2,894 a day and allows him to work up to 205 days a year.
"If they decide Richard Carchman isn't doing the job, they can terminate you, and you lose your $450,000 to $500,000 (per year), right?" Horan asked.
"As they should," Carchman answered.
Carchman was a Philip Morris employee before he became a consultant for the company. Horan argued that Carchman began receiving promotions about the time he started testifying for the company in lawsuits.
Carchman said his title changed sometimes, but they weren't really promotions and didn't involve more pay. At one point, his title was vice president of worldwide science.
"You were vice president of the world," Horan said.
The plaintiff attorneys are expected to ask for a judgment in the billions. Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron is presiding over the nonjury trial.