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Maine AG Praises Today's US Supreme Court Tobacco Decision
December 15, 2008
For Immediate Release
Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe praised today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Altria Group, Inc., et al. v. Good et al. “Today’s decision is a major win for the health of American people,” said Attorney General Rowe. “The court has held that cigarette manufacturers cannot make fraudulent claims about the safety of their products and then hide behind the Federal Cigarette Labeling Act. The decision makes clear that state unfair and deceptive trade practice laws are not preempted by the Federal Labeling Act. Maine was proud to lead the states in arguing against preemption.”
The respondents in the Altria case are a group of Maine residents and longtime smokers of Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights cigarettes, which are manufactured by Philip Morris USA, Inc. and its parent company, Altria Group, Inc. The smokers claimed that the tobacco company deliberately deceived them about the true and harmful nature of “light” cigarettes in violation of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act (UPTA). The tobacco company had argued that the Maine UTPA was preempted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Maine UPTA was not preempted by the federal law. The Court also held that the Federal Trade Commission’s actions in the field did not impliedly preempt the smokers’ Maine UPTA claims.
The Maine Attorney General’s Office participated in the case by preparing and filing with the Supreme Court a state an amici curiae brief arguing that state unfair trade practice laws are not preempted by the Federal Labeling Act. Forty-six other states and the District of Columbia signed onto the brief.
Today’s decision is also important for a case that is pending in state court in Vermont. In that case, the State of Vermont has sued R.J. Reynolds for representations made with respect to its Eclipse brand of cigarettes. Vermont claimed that Reynolds misled the public with unsubstantiated claims that Eclipse cigarettes might carry less risk of cancer and other health ailments. Vermont’s suit included claims that Reynolds’ conduct violated provisions in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement as well as the state’s Unfair Trade Practice Act. Today’s decision ensures that Vermont can go forward with its UPTA claims intact. The case is presently in trial in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington. The Maine Attorney General’s office assisted Vermont with preparing its case for trial. Maine assisted with taking pre-trial depositions and with preparing pleadings.
Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe praised the professionals in his office who have worked on these cases. They include Deputy Attorneys General Paul Stern, Assistant Attorneys General Linda Conti, Jennifer Willis, Peter LaFond and Carolyn Silsby and Research Assistant Alice Sproul.