As of January 2002, the terms ‘light’, ‘mild’, ‘low-tar’ and the like are illegal in Brazil: the Brazilian government followed through rapidly on recommendations from World Health Organization experts by adopting a series of regulations last year.
In July 2001, the European Union adopted a directive which will see all 15 member countries ban misleading cigarette descriptors at the latest by 2003. British-American Tobacco, the parent company of Canada’s Imperial Tobacco, is challenging the directive in court.
In early 2002, the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the commission was considering an investigation into whether tobacco companies violated that country’s Trade Practices Act through mislabelling of cigarettes. The commission is in the midst of a broader investigation of the tobacco industry.
In June 2001, a major health insurance fund filed a lawsuit against tobacco companies, alleging that ‘light’ and ‘mild’ are a consumer deception. A few months later, the Israeli Commerce and Trade Ministry said it was conducting a criminal investigation into the industry’s practices.
In March 2002, a jury in Oregon ordered Philip Morris to pay $150 million to the estate of a victim of lung cancer who had smoked a so-called ‘low-tar’ brand of cigarettes. (Schwartz v. Philip Morris)
Class action lawsuits have also been filed in Massachusetts and Illinois, based on accusations of consumer fraud in the marketing of ‘light’ and ‘mild’ cigarettes.