In throwing out the $10.1 billion dollar judgment against the Altria Group (the new name that the weasels in charge of Philip Morris chose when they decided it would be good for their stock price to hide the fact that they are a tobacco company, since the name Philip Morris was well known), the Illinois Supreme Court found that the tobacco company could not be sued for consumer fraud for implying that "light" and "low tar" cigarettes were less harmful than regular ones, on the basis that because the Federal Trade Commission never took explicit action to stop them from using the terms, they had approved the ad campaign and therefore shielded Big Tobacco from liability.
I was particularly disturbed by one pundit who was interviewed on NPR, who praised the ruling, saying that if it had gone the other way, it would open many other corporations to "copycat" lawsuits when they used ad campaigns that attempted to comfort the consumer that their harmful products are really good for you. As if it would be a bad thing that advertisers could actually be held responsible for their lies.
I fear that what this verdict really proves is that the poison of advertising has worked its way so deeply into our national thinking that people in general no longer realize that it's wrong to intentionally create a false impression of the product you're selling, whether or not you use words that lawyers agree is a direct and out-and-out lie. Modern advertising that plays on emotions and carefully suggests things it can't get away with saying outright not only distorts our market economy, it trains our people from infancy that the right way to behave is to manipulate and cheat. We teach our children that it is wrong to lie, but our advertising culture teaches them that it's only lying if you actually specifically say something that is not true; if you can trick someone into believing something false without actually saying it, it doesn't count.