TRUTH FILTERS OUT; Today Is Beginning of the End for Tobacco Industry; -Lawyer Martyn Day; in Science Terms, We Don't Believe That Smoking Is Addictive; -Rothmans Yesterday

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A Dramatic confession by a cigarette firm in America could open the floodgates for up to 20,000 British smokers to sue tobacco firms.

In a massive blow for the industry, Liggett Group - which makes Chesterfields - ended decades of denials to admit cigarettes cause cancer and are addictive.

It also confessed it had targeted teenagers. Experts say the admission could have huge implications for the pounds 12.5billion a year UK industry.

Solicitor Martyn Day, handling the cases of 23 lung cancer victims suing British tobacco firms, said: "We will look back in 10 or 15 years' time and see today as possibly the beginning of the end for the industry.

"There are between 30 to 40,000 cases of lung cancer each year and about 90 per cent are linked to smoking. If the average case is worth pounds 50,000 it doesn't take a genius to work out how much that would cost the industry."

The Imperial Cancer Research Fund said Liggett's admission was "brilliant" news.

However, Britain's biggest six cigarette producers were last night still refusing to accept it.

Rothman International Group insisted: "Under the scientific definition of addiction we do not believe cigarettes are addictive."

Liggett Group has agreed to pay 22 US states a quarter of its pre-tax profits for the next 25 years to settle lawsuits. It will also put addiction warnings on every cigarette pack.

But for British anti-smoking campaigners the real victory was in the firm's admission that its products were aimed at kids. …