Vice Squad
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Tobacco Lawsuit Update #116

The loyal Vice Squad reader keeps imploring, please, please, can we hear more about the thousands of lawsuits involving tobacco companies? And as we aim to please....

The European Union has taken Philip Morris International to court, on the grounds that their distribution practices were undertaken in the knowledge that they were aiding the smuggling of untaxed cigarettes. (A similar "distribution knowingly aimed at fueling the black market" argument has been employed, as far as I know unsuccessfully to date, against the gun industry in the US; I also half-recall that Canada had a similar lawsuit against Big Tobacco but it went nowhere.) Now PMI and the EU are looking to settle. The terms of the putative settlement have PMI paying some 1 billion euros over ten years, with the funds being used to help police the black market.

Pennsylvania has settled one of the cases that it has been bringing against small tobacco manufacturers who were not abiding by the escrow rules adopted in the wake of the 1998 Multistate Tobacco Settlement. The company will pony up. Some previous Vice Squad posts on related developments are here (March 27); here (March 18); and here (involving Pennsylvania, too, on March 2).

The Massachusetts Supreme Court will hear a case (link to article in the Providence Journal; registration required) involving Philip Morris, the state having accused it of deceiving consumers into thinking that low tar and nicotine cigarettes are safer. A similar case is currently at the Illinois Supreme Court; Vice Squad noted it earlier (most recently, on March 18). The current issue to be decided in Massachusetts, however, only concerns whether the case can be brought as a class action.

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