Houston Lawsuit Calls Foul On Those "Low-Tar" Cigarettes

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Vincent Salazar, a Houston man, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Philip Morris and its parent company, Altria Group, in Texas, making the state one of four where similar lawsuits were filed in the last two days.

The suits are seeking damages allegedly caused by years of advertising with words like low-tar, light, mild and ultra-light, which, it's claimed in the suit, "create the false impression that such cigarettes are less harmful to smokers than full-flavored, conventional cigarettes."

Attorney Marian Rosen is handling the Texas case, which was filed in federal court, but wasn't immediately available for comment. However, Howard Rubinstein, a lawyer based in Colorado, tells Hair Balls the other lawsuits were filed in California, Colorado and Florida.

"People who smoke light cigarettes think they get a healthier smoke and it's not true, because Marlboro Lights don't have any less of a negative effect on you than anything else. They both cause cancer," says Rubinstein, who was one of several attorneys who filed a suit against Big Tobacco in the late 1990s on behalf of 11 Latin American countries. The lawsuit was thrown out by the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals, because the court said the cases weren't in U.S. jurisdiction.

Hair Balls asked Rubinstein how much money was at stake in this case, and he said he wasn't sure but pointed to a similar lawsuit filed in Illinois. A judge had ordered Philip Morris to pay $10 billion, but the ruling was overturned by the state supreme court in 2005.

There was also an $800-billion class action lawsuit thrown out in April of last year seeking damages for the deceptive "light" advertising.

An attorney for Philip Morris could not be reached for comment.

-- Paul Knight

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