WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court blocked a landmark judgment against the tobacco industry Tuesday, allowing the companies to continue selling "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes until their appeals can be reviewed.
The decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also allows the companies to continue for now the advertising campaigns that a federal judge in August ruled were misleading.
Without comment, the appeals court granted the tobacco companies' request to put Judge Gladys Kessler's order on hold.
In mid-August, Kessler ruled that the companies had violated racketeering laws and conspired for decades to mislead the public about the health hazards of smoking.
The judge ordered the companies to publish in newspapers and on their Web sites "corrective statements" on the adverse health effects and addictiveness of smoking and nicotine.
She also ordered tobacco companies to stop labeling cigarettes as "low-tar," "light," "ultra light" or "mild," since such cigarettes have been found to be no safer than others because of how people smoke them.
Kessler's ruling was appealed by Philip Morris USA, Lorillard , Brown & Williamson Corp. and British American Tobacco PLC.
"The company believes the trial court's decision is contrary to the law and facts presented during trial, and looks forward to the opportunity to present its arguments to the appellate court," said William S. Ohlemeyer, vice president and associate general counsel for Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris.
No date has been set for arguments. It could be more than a year before an opinion is released.
Ban on 'light' cigarettes put on hold