Cigarette maker Philip Morris, a unit of Altria Group Inc., asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a landmark ruling that found the tobacco industry violated federal racketeering laws for deceiving the public about the dangers of smoking.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year affirmed most remedies that a trial judge imposed against tobacco companies in 2006, which included restrictions on tobacco marketing and a requirement that the industry make corrective public statements about the health effects and addictiveness of smoking.
The appeals court ruled unanimously that there was ample evidence to conclude that the tobacco industry intended to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. The court also said the government had adequately proved that the tobacco industry was likely to commit future violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, unless restrictions were imposed.
Philip Morris, whose top brand is Marlboro, said the government is perverting the understanding of the racketeering law.
"Absent further review, the government will henceforth be free to pervert RICO into a device for evading the legislative process, penalizing and chilling public debate on scientific matters, and constraining constitutionally protected speech through vague and sweeping injunctions," Philip Morris said in its appeal.
Other companies targeted by the government include Camel-cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds, a unit of Reynolds American Inc., and Lorillard Inc. They are expected to file appeals to the Supreme Court.