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WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court blocked a judgment against the tobacco industry earlier this week, allowing the companies to continue selling "light" and "low tar" cigarettes until appeals can be reviewed, The Associated Press reported.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also ruled that advertising of the brands, which was labeled as "misleading" by a federal judge in August, can continue for the moment. Companies that requested the stay include Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco Co. and British American Tobacco.
Without commenting on the issue, the court granted tobacco's request to hold Judge Gladys Kessler's ruling that required light brands taken off shelves, along with its advertising. The companies claimed that the broad ruling would cost millions and the loss of customers, the AP reported.
In the order, the appeals panel said the tobacco companies involved "satisfied the stringent standards required" for a stay that will remain until the companies appeals are reviewed.
The ruling was not surprising to William V. Corr, executive director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Judge Kessler's finding was that these companies have lied to the American people for 50 years," he told the AP. "We're confident that, if it means going all the way to the Supreme Court, the government's case will be vindicated and the industry will be held accountable."
After a nine-month racketeering trial filed by the Justice Department in 1999, Kessler ruled in August that the tobacco companies had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. In this violation, the companies allegedly conspired for years to mislead the public on the dangers of smoking.
Kessler ruled that the companies must publish "corrective statements" on cigarettes health hazards and addictiveness in newspapers and their Web sites. Also, she ordered that cigarettes could not be labeled "low-tar", "light," "ultra light" or "mild," as all are no safer than traditional cigarettes, the AP reported.