Agency Says BAT Misled Consumers

Gennady Onishchenko, the country's top health officer, said Monday that his agency was suing British American Tobacco's Russian office for misleading consumers.

Onishchenko, head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, said he signed a lawsuit against BAT for "misleading the consumers" and infringing on their rights. The service would not specify the nature of the claim.

Alexander Lyuty, corporate and regulatory affairs director at British American Tobacco Russia, said the company had not received any official claim and was "not aware of its grounds in detail." Lyuty said BAT was acting "in full accordance with Russian legislation."

Onishchenko attacked global tobacco companies in July, threatening them with legal action for "nicotine genocide." He said the corporations were making huge profits at the expense of Russians' health.

On Monday, he reiterated the claims, saying tobacco producers view Russia as "an uncivilized market where they can sell dangerous and poisonous products."

Russia-based tobacco companies have said they produce only the highest-quality cigarettes in Russia, many of which they then export to Europe. Market watchers say the suit will likely focus on "light" and "superlight" labeling.

Maxim Kulkov, head of commercial practice at Pepeliaev, Goltsblat and Partners, said he saw no wrongdoing on the companies' part. "The amount of nicotine is indicated on each pack," he said.