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Philip Morris Increased Toxicity Levels In Cigarettes Marketed As 'Light' To Keep Market Share

Jan 23, 2003 | PR Newswire

A former Philip Morris research director testified today in the first consumer fraud class action case on light cigarettes to be tried in the nation that the company actually increased the toxicity level in light cigarettes compared to their counterparts to keep consumers addicted to nicotine.

William Farone, former director of applied research at Philip Morris, cited company documents that revealed that as far back as the 1960's the company knew that smokers would compensate for lower nicotine delivered by cigarettes so the cigarettes had to be designed to appear more healthy but in fact deliver more toxic elements to smokers in order to maintain the addiction.

"Philip Morris knew that if cigarettes got a nicotine reading on the machine below four milligrams those products would have a hard time maintaining market share. Marlboro Lights were designed to get a lower read on the Federal Trade Commission machine while simultaneously delivering higher nicotine to the smoker," Farone said.

Farone, who worked at Philip Morris for eight years, used internal company memoranda going back to 1967, four years before Marlboro Lights were introduced, to document that the company was fully aware of the inaccuracy of machine test readings of toxic mutagens that are linked to cancer and that left the mistaken impression that light cigarettes were less toxic than regular cigarettes when smoked by humans.

"The mutagenic activity as a predictor for the carcinogenic activity of a light cigarette was greater," Farone said.

Stephen Tillery, an attorney for the plaintiffs, asked the witness whether Philip Morris intended to communicate to consumers that Marlboro Lights were less harmful than regular cigarettes.

"Yes, they did," Farone answered.

Attorneys for Philip Morris repeatedly objected to the questions about cigarette design and asked for a mistrial on the grounds that the case was being tried as a consumer fraud case and design defects had no bearing under the Illinois Consumer Fraud statute.

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