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Class Dismissed

An Arizona state court judge rejected an effort to certify a consumer fraud class action lawsuit on behalf of smokers who purchased "light" cigarettes made by New York-based Philip Morris Cos. Inc., which manufactures cigarette brands such as Marlboro and Marlboro Light.

Plaintiffs in the so-called "Cocca Case" wanted the court to order refunds of the money smokers spent to buy Philip Morris cigarettes. The plaintiffs alleged that Philip Morris U.S.A. fraudulently marketed light and ultra-light cigarettes by implying that they are healthier than regular cigarettes, the company said.

"There is no question that there are no safe cigarettes, and it has been known for years that the amount of tar and nicotine each smoker receives depends on their individual smoking behavior,'' William Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roger Kaufman cited four reasons why the Cocca case failed to meet legal requirements for a class action and said any of the four was sufficient enough to justify the denial, according to Philip Morris.

"Judge Kaufman recognized that there are a variety of factors involved in smoking behavior for each individual plaintiff that prevents these types of cases from being tried as a class action," Ohlemeyer said.

Kaufman also noted that the Federal Trade Commission is responsible for overseeing cigarette advertising and that "advertising of light cigarettes (by the company) referred to government-mandated testing" of tar and nicotine yields, Philip Morris said.

Ohlemeyer said efforts to have similar "lights cases certified as class actions are pending in other states, and that Kaufman's call "offers" sound legal reasoning as to why these cases also should be denied class certification.

Courts have now denied certification in two "lights" class actions. A case in Illinois has been certified and is scheduled for trial next year.
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