The Supreme Court ruled today that lawsuits may proceed against tobacco companies for allegedly deceptive marketing of “light” cigarettes. In a 5-4 split won by the court’s liberals, the court said smokers may use state consumer-protection laws to sue over such promotional methods. The decision was at odds with recent anti-consumer rulings that limited state regulation of business in favor of federal power.
The tobacco companies argued that the lawsuits are barred by the federal cigarette labeling law, which forbids states from regulating any aspect of cigarette advertising that involves smoking and health. Justice John Paul Stevens, however, said the labeling law does not shield companies from state laws against deceptive practices. Suitors still must prove that the use of “light” and “lowered tar” actually violate state anti-fraud laws.