US case seeking cancer screenings for smokers heads to trial this week

By Staff Writer | Jan 26, 2016 09:45 AM EST

The smokers from the state of Massachusetts charged in the class-action lawsuit that Philip Morris manufactured a substandard cigarette, knowing it could have made a safer product containing just fewer carcinogens. With that, the case will finally be heard by a jury 10 years after a group of American smokers sued Philip Morris USA to try to force the cigarette maker to pay for lung cancer screenings.

According to Nola, The smokers who filed the lawsuit are not asking for money to Philip Morris, but instead, they want to force Philip Morris to pay for highly detailed, three-dimensional chest scans that can identify the signs of early-stage lung cancer that may be too small to be displayed on traditional X-rays.

The jury will be required to decide whether Philip Morris manufactured the Marlboro cigarettes that are unreasonably dangerous for the health. And if ever the jury finds out reasons that will be favorable to the smokers, a second phase trial will then be held to settle on how a cancer screening program will be implemented for the smokers.

However, North Jersey claimed that there are no smokers required to testify at the first phase of the trial. In fact, it will be a trial that will be dueling on experts about the damages caused by the dangerous cigarettes.

The claimants also plan to summon a former Philip Morris employee to testify about the feasible alternative designs of Marlboros that have existed for decades. They are also planning to call for a psychologist who will be a witness that may be given a choice between Marlboros or a safer cigarette, which will tend to prove that a non-addicted, informed person would prefer to use the safer alternative instead of the more harmful.

On the other hand, CBS News reported that to counteract the plaintiffs' evidence, the cigarette maker, Philip Morris is expected to summon experts in cigarette design and marketing who are likely to prove that the company's lower-tar and lower-nicotine cigarettes, which are sold on the market since the late 1970's, have not succeeded to expand a significant market share among any group of smokers.

In court documents, the company has denied the allegations that its cigarettes are defective and argued that three-dimensional chest scans would not be effective or necessary for the people covered by the lawsuit. The case covers Massachusetts smokers who, as of February 2013, were at least 50, had at least a 20 pack-year history of smoking Marlboros and have not been diagnosed with lung cancer.

The two sides agree that the chest scans are "reasonably and periodically necessary" for smokers 55 to 74 with at least a 30 pack-year history. They disagree on the rest of the smokers in the lawsuit.

Since the case was filed in 2006, insurers have begun to cover the screenings for certain smokers. Last year, Medicare declared that it would pay for annual screenings for beneficiaries 55 to 77 with at least a 30 pack-year history.

For now, although both sides agree that chest scans will be reasonable and periodically applied for smokers 55 to 74 with at least 30 pack year history, they still disagree on the rest of the smokers in the lawsuit. So in turn, the closely observed case will head to trial this week in federal court in Boston.

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