Light Cigarettes are More Dangerous Than Regular Cigarettes, According to Landmark 'Light Lie' Ruling Against Philip Morris
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill., March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Friday's landmark $10 billion Illinois Circuit Court verdict against Philip Morris in the nation's first class action consumer fraud lawsuit on light cigarettes has medical and legal implications that will foll
In finding for the plaintiffs in Miles v. Philip Morris, Judge Nicholas Byron issued findings of fact that attest to the fraud and set a ground- breaking legal precedent, according to attorneys in the case.
"The significance of this ruling goes far beyond Illinois. In all future cases nationwide, Philip Morris will have to overcome the judgment that its use of the word 'light' was fraudulent," said Stephen Tillery, lead plaintiffs' attorney in the case. "Consumers of light cigarettes have been lied to for years, and they've been paying with their lives. The compensatory damages pale beside the price paid in human lives."
"The evidence at trial demonstrates not only that Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights are just as harmful as their regular counterparts, but that these products are actually more harmful and more hazardous than their regular counterparts," Judge Byron concluded in his order.
"Philip Morris' own internal research regarding compensatory smoking behavior demonstrates that Philip Morris knew since before the launch of Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights that smokers will adjust their behavior to receive the same level of tar and nicotine from these Light cigarettes as they would receive from their regular cigarette counterparts," the judge said. "The Court finds that Philip Morris was aware of the increased harm from these Light cigarettes based upon their own scientific testing."
"It is therefore quite significant that their test results have consistently demonstrated for the past 25 years that increased ventilation (the primary design distinction between Light cigarettes and their regular counterparts) increases the specific mutagenicity of cigarette smoke ... The fact that Philip Morris intentionally prevented its scientists in the United States from performing additional testing does not undermine the credibility and reliability of the testing that Philip Morris did perform. In fact, this intentional failure to conduct additional testing further demonstrates Philip Morris' belief that light cigarettes were and are more harmful than their regular counterparts," the order stated.
"Philip Morris' contention that the public health community should somehow be blamed for the fraud associated with Light cigarettes is both morally abhorrent and factually incorrect. At all times since the inception of their Lights products, Philip Morris was aware of their deception and was aware that the public health community was among those deceived by the fact that their products did not deliver the promised lower tar and nicotine and were not "light" as represented. Yet it was not until the fall of 2002 that they disseminated this knowledge. As such, they cannot assert that the Class should have known information which they chose not to publicly reveal until November 2002," Judge Byron said.
Public health experts and a leading consumer protection group praised the decision.
"The ruling sends a strong message that Big Tobacco's conduct is incompatible with responsible, ethical business practice. The industry must accept responsibility for causing decades of illness, premature mortality, and high medical care costs," said Tom Houston, M.D., Director Science and Community Health Advocacy, American Medical Association.
"Many smokers switched to these brands in a false belief they were reducing their health risk. This ruling holds Philip Morris accountable for their irresponsible, harmful conduct," said Matthew L. Myers, president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The Judge said that testimony by Philip Morris experts that just because there is no "real" light cigarette does not reduce the harm done to consumers.
"Philip Morris never offered a "real" Marlboro Light or Cambridge Light cigarette to the Class. Philip Morris cannot escape liability in this case from its fraud because of the fact that it never created the product that it promised in Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights," he concluded.
At a minimum, light cigarette consumers get the same amount of tar and nicotine as they would smoking regular cigarettes and further, the tar of light cigarettes contains more toxins. According to evidence presented in the case:
(1) Philip Morris designed their Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights
cigarettes with more ventilation holes that would reduce the
machine-measured tar and nicotine delivery (in order to "pass" a lower
tar/nicotine test designed by the FTC), all the while knowing that
actual smokers would extract even greater levels of tar and nicotine
for two reasons: First, unlike a machine, a human hand may block a
cigarette's ventilation which changes the chemical reaction of the
smoke to make it burn more hotly and with more deadly chemical
composition; and second, smokers engage in a process of compensation
due to their nicotine addiction, causing them to inhale more deeply,
hold smoke longer and puff more frequently to satisfy that addiction.
(2) According to the Massachusetts Benchmark study by Philip Morris
published in 2000, studies of 25 identified toxic carcinogens in the
tar of both Marlboro Lights and Marlboro Reds revealed that the
Marlboro Lights contained higher amounts of 22 of these mutagens.
"In terms of dangerous chemicals, light cigarettes deliver two bangs for the butt. Not only do smokers of light cigarettes inhale just as much tar, the tar in these so-called light cigarettes contains even more mutagens. Put simply, light cigarettes deliver just as much tar, more toxins, and are even more deadly. What is incredible and even more appalling, Philip Morris' own testing revealed this truth as early the mid-1970s, yet the company deceived the public for decades, " said Peter Shields, M.D., chief of the Cancer Genetics and Epidemiology Department at Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer Center.
"Plaintiffs introduced credible scientific and epidemiological evidence that connected the dramatic increase in adenocarcinomas (lung cancer of the peripheral lung cells) to the increased prevalence of light cigarettes like Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights. The unrebutted expert testimony of Dr. Peter Shields and Dr. Michael Thun established that Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights have contributed to the dramatic rise in adenocarcinoma cancer rates, thereby demonstrating another line of evidence that establishes increased harm from the 'Light' cigarette products," the Judge said in his order.
"I chose Marlboro Lights because I thought they would be less harmful. At least people will know the truth now and will be able to make informed decisions, and Philip Morris won't be able to get away with deceiving people anymore," said Lisa Kezios, a plaintiff in the suit.
Both Canada and the European Union have recently banned cigarettes marketed as "light" cigarettes.