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NEW YORK - The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today affirmed the U.S. District Court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Philip Morris USA's Retail Leaders merchandising program.
"We are very pleased that the Fourth Circuit has come to the same conclusion reached by the District Court -- that Philip Morris USA's merchandising programs foster free competition for the benefit of both retailers and adult smokers," said Joe Murillo, associate general counsel, Philip Morris USA.
The original decision arose from a lawsuit brought by R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard against Philip Morris USA, claiming that the program violated federal antitrust law by foreclosing competition. This lawsuit was dismissed in May 2002 by Judge Franklin W. Bullock Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C., who ruled that the program had done nothing to prevent or restrain competition in the retail cigarette market in the United States.
In affirming that decision today, the Fourth Circuit noted that the cigarette market in the U.S. is "highly competitive" and that the Retail Leaders program does not "substantially foreclose" competition.
Murillo went on to say, "Philip Morris USA's Retail Leaders Program offers a menu of options for retailers to choose from when considering tobacco manufacturer merchandising programs. In addition to fostering competition, Retail Leaders also helps retailers to responsibly market tobacco products to adult smokers in their stores."