R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. was ordered to pay Vermont $8.3 million by a state-court judge who ruled that the company violated consumer-protection laws by stating that its Eclipse cigarette brand reduced health risks.
Vermont Superior Court Judge Dennis Pearson said the company violated a settlement agreement and a 1998 consent decree from the court, according to a filing dated yesterday.
Pearson issued an injunction barring Reynolds from making “risk reduction” claims for tobacco products without “supporting studies that have been accepted by the scientific community.”
“This decision is a multimillion-dollar wakeup call for Reynolds and other tobacco companies,” Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said in a statement today. “If you make unsubstantiated health claims about your deadly products, you will pay dearly.”
Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the ruling.
R.J. Reynolds, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a unit of Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), the second-largest U.S. tobacco company.
The case is State of Vermont v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., s1087-05CnC, Vermont Superior Court, Chittenden Unit (Burlington).
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