BEIJING (AFP) - An arm of China's state tobacco monopoly has been sued for allegedly fraudulent advertising after it claimed that some of its cigarettes were "low harm", state-run media reported.
The case against China Tobacco Jiangxi Industrial LLC, a subsidiary of China Tobacco, is the first litigation of its kind in the country, the Beijing News reported.
In an online advertisement it said one of its brands was "low tar, low harm" and that a Chinese medicine ingredient added to its products "sharply reduces" the cigarettes' damaging effects, the paper said.
The case was heard by a Beijing court on Thursday, it added.
Plaintiff Li Enze, a tobacco control activist and former lawyer, said a claimed toxicology assessment had not taken place, according to the paper.
He also sued a Beijing supermarket where he bought a carton of the company's Jinsheng brand cigarettes, it added.
Mr Li is demanding the defendants apologise, acknowledge that the advertisement was "groundless", and pay compensation of 250 yuan (S$52), or roughly twice the price he paid.
Chinese authorities have already ordered the company to take down the advertisements from its website, the report said.