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The Philip Morris USA division of Altria Group Inc. is suing 325 retailers in seven states, accusing them of selling counterfeit versions of the company’s cigarettes. The company said it filed 15 lawsuits Monday as part of a continuing effort to curb the sales of cigarettes illegally using Philip Morris trademarks, including its iconic Marlboro brand. A company spokeswoman, Jamie Drogin, said the suits were filed against a range of retailers, from small, individually owned outlets to large chains. She would not identify the names of the businesses, but said the suits are targeted against 325 individual retail locations, even though some share ownership. Similar lawsuits in past years have led to consent judgments with 22 retailers, who have agreed to stop selling fake Philip Morris cigarettes and to identify their suppliers. The company said it filed the lawsuits in four federal district courts in California, two district courts in the states of Louisiana, New York and Texas, as well as the courts covering Arizona, the Southern District of Florida and the Western District of Washington. Philip Morris USA is the domestic tobacco division of New York-based Altria, the new name for holding company Philip Morris Cos. Altria shares rose 33 cents to close at $38.98 on the New York Stock Exchange. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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