Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest tobacco company, said Thursday it has filed federal lawsuits accusing 10 New York and New Jersey retailers of selling counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes.
The company, owned by Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., said the New York area is fertile for cigarette smugglers because of the combination of high federal, state and local taxes.
Over the last few years, increased taxes on cigarettes have given rise to counterfeit or black market cigarettes. In New York City, a pack of Marlboro cigarettes can cost more than $10.
Philip Morris is asking the court to ban the retailers _ small grocery stores and delis _ from purchasing, distributing or selling counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes. It also is asking for companies to turn over their profits from the illegal cigarettes, along with punitive damages and attorney's fees.
The company said the suits are part of several recent actions to protect its trademarks.
Since May 2009, Philip Morris said it has filed such lawsuits against 27 stores in New York and New Jersey.
Marlboro is the top-selling cigarette brand in the U.S.