Mistrial Declared in $700 Million Lawsuit Against Tobacco Manufacturer

A Missouri judge has declared a mistrial in a $700 million lawsuit against tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris. Judge Michael David ended the lawsuit after jurors could not reach an agreement on whether Missouri smokers were misled into believing that “light” cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2000, and finally went to trial last month, according to the Associated Press. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Stephen Swedlow, said he will take the case to trial again. He said the jury voted 8-4 in favor of the plaintiffs, one short of the nine votes necessary to return a civil verdict under Missouri law.

As of June 2010, the federal Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibits manufacturers from producing any tobacco products labeled or advertised as “light,” “low” or “mild.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many smokers incorrectly believe these cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes and may help smokers quit. The FDA points out that the National Cancer Institute has found smokers who use light cigarettes do not reduce their risk for developing smoking-related cancers and other diseases. Switching to light cigarettes does not help smokers quit, and may decrease a person’s motivation to stop smoking, the FDA website notes.

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