WASHINGTON - In a decision preserving state autonomy, the Supreme Court yesterday said smokers in some instances may sue cigarette manufacturers under state law for misrepresenting and concealing the dangers of smoking.

The case, Cipollone v. Liggett Group Inc., has been closely watched because of the potential that cigarette makers could be made liable for billions of dollars in damages. But at its core, the case has heavy implications for federalism, a term that describes the interplay between, and the respective powers of, the federal and state governments.

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