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Light Cigarettes Still Health Risk

Philip Morris Lied About Low-Tar Cigarettes

PORTLAND, OR -- March 29, 2002 -- A Multnomah County jury ordered the tobacco giant, Philip Morris, to pay $150 million to the heirs of Michelle Schwarz, who died of lung cancer at the age of 53. The case focused on the dangers of so-called "low-tar" cigarettes.

Ms. Schwarz had switched from Benson & Hedges to Merit, a Philip Morris brand marketed as a low-tar cigarette. According to the jurors, Philip Morris falsely claimed that low-tar cigarettes provided an alternative to quitting smoking, touting them as safer than regular cigarettes. Damages were awarded against Philip Morris for fraud, negligence, and strict liability for marketing a defective and dangerous product.

The Schwarz trial comes on the heels of a study released in November by the National Cancer Institute indicating that low-tar and light cigarettes do not reduce health risks to smokers (see Smoking Lower Yield Cigarettes and Disease Risk, David M. Burns, et al.). Public health groups have also asked the Federal Food and Drug Administration to eliminate alternative products that claim to offer safe ways to consume nicotine and tobacco.

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