A trial has gone underway in California accusing Philip Morris USA, unit of the Altria Group Inc of falsely marketing its so-called “light” cigarettes as being a healthier option over tradition cigarettes.
The lawsuit which seeks $543.6 million in restitution to California smoker for money spent on cigarettes, was brought as a class action and is being heard in San Diego state court. Dozens of internal Philip Morris documents are expected to be presented that reveal that high-level executives knew that Marlboro Lights were as addictive and dangerous to smokers as Marlboro reds, yet they continued marketing the lighter versions as a healthy alternative.
This lawsuit was filed in 1997 and accuses Philip Morris and other tobacco companies of making misleading statements concerning the health risks and addictive nature of smoking. It is claimed that Philip Morris knew that even if smokers switched from full-flavoured to low-tar or low-nicotine cigarettes, research proved that the smokers would compensate for the lower levels by smoking more-inhaling more deeply or smoking more cigarettes-to meet their body’s so-called “nicotine quota”.
Philip Morris has disputed the claims and argues that no evidence exists that all of the smokers for whom restitution is being sought switched to light cigarettes believing that they were healthier.
Smoking is a leading preventable cause of death in America with the toxic substance lined to some 443,000 deaths and $100 billion spent in healthcare costs annually.
Second-hand smoke has been linked also to a variety of health issues, contains over 4,000 substances including over 50 known or suspected carcinogens and is linked to many diseases in adults and children. These include sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, asthma, coronary heart disease, lung and sinus cancers and hearing loss.
Smoking has also recently been linked to colorectal cancer creating damage in the body just minutes after inhaling for the first time.