Vt. judge rules against R.J. Reynolds

Nick Rees Mar. 15, 2010, 4:00pm

MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's advertising of a so-called "reduced risk" cigarette has been found deceptive and misleading by a Vermont Superior Court Judge.

RJR's marketing of Eclipse, a non-traditional cigarette, from 2000- 2007 in print and Internet ads was found to be in violation of Vermont's Consumer Fraud Act and a 1998 settlement agreement.

"This is a huge decision with national implications and Vermont has once again led the way," Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said.

"The Court has ruled that companies cannot make health claims about their products unless they have the proof to back them up."

In his ruling, Vermont Superior Court Judge Dennis Pearson found that RJR's ad conveyed the impression that Eclipse cigarettes "would reduce any given smoker's chance of developing cancer."

RJR did not have any scientific studies to back up the claims in the ads, Pearson found, and the company was aware that the ads would convince consumers that switching to Eclipse cigarettes offered health benefits.

Judge Pearson's decision follows a five-week trial conducted by then-Assistant Attorney General Julie Brill and Special Assistant Attorney General Barney Brannen, with support from the Tobacco Project of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Consequences for the violations by RJR will be determined at a later time.

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