- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

From combined dispatches
PORTLAND, Ore. A jury ordered Philip Morris to pay $150 million in punitive damages yesterday in a lawsuit contending that low-tar cigarettes are as dangerous as regular ones.
The lawsuit was filed by the estate of Michele Schwarz of Salem, Ore., who died of lung cancer at age 53 in 1999 after smoking low-tar Merit cigarettes.
The jury found that Philip Morris had falsely represented that low-tar cigarettes are healthier than regular ones. The trial, which began in early February, tested a new legal approach with claims that the world's biggest tobacco company lied to smokers about the health risks associated with low-tar products.
Mrs. Schwarz had switched from a regular filtered cigarette because she believed the low-tar version would be better for her health, said the attorney for her estate, Lawrence Wobbrock.
Mr. Wobbrock said in court that Philip Morris marketed the cigarettes as having fewer health risks.
But James L. Dumas, one of the company's attorneys, said Philip Morris did not market Merits as healthier than regular filtered cigarettes. He said the company advertises them as milder, less harsh.
Mr. Wobbrock said smokers were getting the same amount of tar by taking more puffs on their cigarettes and smoking them closer to the butt.
Mr. Dumas said it was not the company's fault that smokers figured out how to get around the low-tar design.
Mr. Dumas also said that Mrs. Schwarz, who worked for many years in the medical office of her physician husband, was well aware of the dangers of cigarette smoke. Company lawyers also contended that she disregarded warnings from family, school and package labels that tobacco was addictive and harmful.

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