In a 5 to 4 decision, the US Supreme Court has opened the door to a flood of lawsuits against tobacco companies with a ruling that smokers can sue over the way they promote light and low tar brands. Basically, the court has allowed smokers to sue for fraud. It is, as the New York Times points out, a fraught issue because fraud claims are not suited to class action and in any case, the question before the court was not whether use of the term "light" amounted to fraud but whether plaintiffs should be allowed to sue at all given US law requires tobacco companies to place rotating warnings on their packaging and advertising. Basically, the argument goes that smokers were misled into buying cigarettes they believed were safer than regular ones.
Still, this was inevitable. As The Times points out: Packs sold in Britain have to include health warnings covering 30 per cent of the front surface and 40 per cent of the back European law sets an upper limit of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes. Words such as "light" or "mild" are banned as part of a brand name, unless authorised by member states A study by the American Journal of Public Health found that people who smoke light cigarettes are half as likely to quit as other smokers. A third of respondents said that they lights because of health concerns".