Light cigarettes marketed by Phillip Morris Tobacco Inc. actually delivered higher levels of cancer-causing tar and nicotine, a former scientist for the company testified on the second day of a class-action lawsuit against the maker of the brands Marlboro and Cambridge Light.
William Farone, former director of applied research at Philip Morris, testified for the plaintiffs Wednesday. The $7.7 billion lawsuit alleges that the cigarette maker defrauded consumers who wrongly believed they were getting less tar and nicotine from the light brands.
It is the first of several consumer fraud lawsuits pending over light cigarettes, which Farone testified are actually worse for the consumer than regular cigarettes.
The only difference between regular and light cigarettes, he said, is that light cigarettes have a series of ventilation holes in the filter that trick the machines used by the Federal Trade Commission into reading lower tar and nicotine levels. However, when people smoke the light cigarettes, their lips cover the holes. They inhale more deeply to get the nicotine and end up exposing themselves to more tar, he said.
Farone also testified that Philip Morris had the technology to produce a light cigarette that was actually lower in toxins than regular cigarettes, but without the high nicotine levels to maintain addiction, the cigarettes did not sell.
“I’m not doing this because I hate Philip Morris,” Farone said outside the courtroom. “I’m doing this because I don’t want people to die from smoking cigarettes.”
Plaintiffs attorney Stephen Tillery also showed the now-famous clip of seven tobacco executives testifying before Congress in 1994 that they believed nicotine is not addictive, including William Campbell, then president of Philip Morris.
“It’s one thing if (light cigarettes) are just as bad that’s fraud,” Tillory said. “If they’re worse than regular cigarettes, that’s awful.”
Defense attorney George Lombardi of Winston & Strom of Chicago moved to exclude Farone’s testimony, but was overruled by Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.
Earlier in the day, Lombardi gave his opening statement, in which he said the suit was not a case about physical injury, because none of the plaintiffs have smoking-related illnesses.
“In essence, what they’re seeking is their money back,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi argued that Philip Morris followed FTC regulations by publicizing the tar levels recorded in their tests.
“There’s not a safe cigarette,” Lombardi said. “Cigarettes are dangerous. That’s why we have warnings on them.”
Lombardi showed government-sponsored public service announcements urging smokers to switch to “low-tar” cigarettes. He also said the plaintiffs can’t prove how much tar they inhaled or financial losses from smoking light cigarettes, and pointed out that all of the plaintiffs still smoke Marlboro Lights.
Farone’s testimony will continue Thursday.