BOSTON, Oct 17, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Tobacco companies were considering Wednesday how best to appeal a U.S. Appeals Court panel's ruling upholding a Massachusetts law that requires them to disclose all ingredients in their products.
Tobacco control advocates, meanwhile, hailed the ruling, which reversed a federal District Court order last year that found the 1996 law unconstitutional.
"This decision is a big public health victory," Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said in Wednesday's Boston Globe.
"The Constitution does not grant tobacco companies a right to sell tobacco products without stating what is in them."
Former state Sen. Warren Tolman, who wrote the law, agreed.
"If you can find out what's in your Lucky charms, why shouldn't you be able to find out what's in your Lucky Strikes?" Tolman asked.
Henry C. Dinger, representing Philip Morris, said tobacco companies are reviewing the Appeals Court panel's decision to decide whether to seek a rehearing before the full 1st U.S. Court of Appeals or to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A three-judge Appeals Court panel on Tuesday upheld the law's constitutionality. In a 2-1 decision, the panel ruled the law's intent to protect public health outweighed tobacco companies' concerns over revealing trade secrets.
"There is substantial reason to expect that public disclosure of potentially harmful ingredients in tobacco products will benefit the Massachusetts public," the Appeals Court said.
The ruling said the law, which has been on hold, "will put consumers in a better position to know if their brand contains harmful additives, and to assess the health risks involved."
Last year U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. had sided with the tobacco companies, ruling the law violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to disclose ingredient formulas.
"The concern with Massachusetts is that the statute certainly could unfairly reveal competitively sensitive brand information or brand recipes that we believe are protected property and should remain protected," said Philip Morris USA spokesman Michael Pfeil.
He said Philip Morris already provides an extensive list of cigarette ingredients on its Web site, philipmorris-usa.com.
Joining Philip Morris in the appeal were R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Tobacco Corp., Lorilard, and U.S. Tobacco Co.