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The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act does not preempt state-law claims that are predicated on the duty not to deceive. The Federal Trade Commission's various decisions with respect to statements of tar and nicotine content do not impliedly preempt such claims.
Respondents, smokers of petitioners' "light" cigarettes, filed suit, alleging that petitioners violated the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act (MUTPA) by fraudulently advertising that their "light" cigarettes delivered less tar and nicotine than regular brands. Petitioners moved for summary judgment on the ground that the Labeling Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1334(b), expressly pre-empted respondents' state-law cause of action. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners, finding the state-law claim pre-empted by the Labeling Act) The First Circuit reversed, holding that the Labeling Act neither expressly nor impliedly pre-empted respondents' fraud claim. Petitioners appealed.
Was the respondents’ MUTPA claim pre-empted by the Labeling Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1334(b)?
The Court held that neither the Labeling Act's pre-emption provision nor the Federal Trade Commission's actions in this field pre-empted respondents' state-law fraud claim. According to the Court, prior case law holding that a common-law fraud claim was not preempted by the Act was directly applicable to the smokers' MUTPA claim where their contentions that the deceptive statements "light" and "lowered tar and nicotine" induced them to purchase the manufacturers' products alleged a breach of the duty not to deceive. Although the presence of the federally mandated warnings might have had a bearing on the materiality of the alleged fraudulent statements, that possibility did not change the smokers' case to one about the warnings. Moreover, the text of § 1334(b) preempted the rules that were based on smoking and health. The MUTPA said nothing about smoking or health. In sum, the phrase "based on smoking and health" fairly but narrowly construed did not encompass the more general duty not to make fraudulent statements. Thus, the MUTPA claim was not preempted. The Federal Trade Commission's various decisions with respect to statements of tar and nicotine content did not impliedly preempt the smokers' claims.