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Imperial Tobacco Faces Lawsuit Over 'Light' Cigarettes

May 9, 2003 | CBC News

A class action lawsuit was filed against Canada's largest tobacco company for alleged deceptive marketing practices.

The suit filed in B.C.'s Supreme Court on May 8, charges that Imperial Tobacco misled consumers into thinking that light or mild cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes.

"Scientists, researchers and Health Canada have been aware the descriptions 'light' and 'mild' on cigarette brands are misleading and that those brands of cigarettes are no safer than regular cigarettes," said David Klein, the lawyer who filed the suit.

Klein said the suit includes the brands Du Maurier, Matinee, Medallion and Players.

Heather Mackenzie, president of health advocacy group Airspace Action on Smoking and Health, said light cigarettes are more harmful than regular ones.

People who smoke light cigarettes puff harder and hold in the smoke longer as they try to satisfy a nicotine addiction, she said.

Consequently, "the smoke goes deeper into the lungs."

Health Canada has called for a voluntary ban on the use of the descriptors "light" and "mild" in the marketing of cigarettes.

But Canadian tobacco companies have so far refused to comply with this ban.

The B.C. lawsuit is the first of its kind in Canada. It comes in the wake of a $10.1-billion judgment against Phillip Morris in a similar class action case in the U.S.

Philip Morris is appealing the judgment.

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