A Massachusetts judge has given the go-ahead to a new kind of tobacco class-action lawsuit being brought against Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro cigarettes. The suit is brought on behalf of Massachusetts smokers 50 years or older who have smoked at least one pack of Marlboro cigarettes a day for at least 20 years, and is asking Philip Morris to pay for routine, annual computerized tomography (CT) scans of their chests, to try and detect early-stage lung cancer. The scans typically cost between $400 and $500 a year, but many health insurance plans don't cover them. The case differs from past tobacco lawsuits because the plaintiffs (smokers) have no apparent symptoms of lung cancer, and are not seeking typical damages. Instead, the smokers are asking the company to pick up the cost of regular medical screenings to detect the early formation of lung cancer, which is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. About 87 percent of lung cancers are caused by smoking. The smokers claim that this type of monitoring can increase their likelihood of surviving cancer almost six fold. People with existing lung cancer, or those already under a doctor's care for suspected cancer, are not eligible to join the lawsuit. The case throws a new legal strategy at the tobacco industry, which typically has faced personal injury cases by individuals with existing lung cancer or other tobacco-related diseases. If the medical monitoring case is decided in favor of the plaintiffs, it could spawn dozens of similar suits across the country, according to Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University's Tobacco Products Liability Project.
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