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Big Tobacco Can Not Go Running to Federal Courts, Says US Supreme Court


Never underestimate Big Tobacco. Stalled by recent court rulings affirming their lethal deception of the American public, cigarette companies decided to make an end run.

In the face of state court verdicts against cigarette manufacturers (such as the Florida Supreme Court’s decision that nicotine is addictive, that cigarettes cause cancer, and that Big Tobacco has known this all along), Philip Morris sought to shift all smokers’ lawsuits to the federal courts instead. Federal courts have generally been more advantageous for corporations.

Philip Morris’ attorneys argued that because the tobacco industry is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, the federal courts should have jurisdiction over lawsuits filed by tobacco victims. The Supreme Court decision overturned a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which had agreed with the tobacco company’s assertion. The case stems from a class action lawsuit filed in Arkansas over Philip Morris’ deceptive advertising of “light” cigarettes as low in tar and nicotine – while knowing that research shows both elements were dangerously high.

The good news is, several of the 20 suits already filed in state courts can now proceed and a dangerous precedent has been avoided. Edward L. Sweda Jr., senior attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston pointed out that if the Philip Morris request were granted, frequent offenders such as pharmaceutical companies and automakers could move lawsuits against them to federal courts

So what’s next for Big Tobacco in their quest to justify poisoning smokers and then feigning innocence? Even the Court of Public Opinion has failed them: 21% of Americans smoke today, compared with 43% – twice as many – in the 1960s. Still, that’s 45 million Americans still smoking.

As P.T. Barnum said, you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time. Despite our best efforts, Big Tobacco still wants to fool all the people all of the time!

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Posted By: Samantha Saundry