Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Details Elude Tobacco Negotiators

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Details Elude Tobacco Negotiators

Article excerpt

Negotiators reached "agreements on concepts" Thursday with the tobacco industry but struggled to pin down specifics on cigarette ads and sales for the next 25 years.

"Sometimes the most difficult details don't arise until the last minute in negotiations, when somebody has to say yea or nay," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Michael Moore, Mississippi's attorney general who is leading the anti-tobacco side, said: "We have made tremendous progress today. . . . We got more concessions from the industry today." The two sides worked late into Thursday night and planned to resume talks today. On Wall Street Thursday, tobacco stocks rose amid expectations of a settlement. The anti-tobacco side said it was energized by President Bill Clinton's comments in an interview, in which he encouraged both sides to keep negotiating. Clinton indicated that he would intervene only as a last resort, but several negotiators nevertheless said that gave them a safety net if the most contentious provisions prove intractable. Still to be agreed to are whether the industry would be exempt from paying punitive damages to sick smokers and how much control over nicotine the Food and Drug Administration gets. "We have agreements on concepts" concerning those issues, but, "They're not nailed down yet," said one negotiator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Other participants characterized Thursday's closed-door sessions as careful. The talks did not move as fast as lead negotiators had predicted Wednesday. Still, negotiators continued to predict a settlement as early as this morning. Senate Action Uncertain Even if a deal were reached, Congress still would have to ratify it before it would take effect, and that is far from certain. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., has said Congress might not be able to fit tobacco into its busy schedule, and some Democrats, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, told tobacco negotiators just this week that they remained highly skeptical. Also, all the states are not yet behind the deal. Nevertheless, White House aide Bruce Lindsey, who normally travels with the president, stayed behind Thursday when Clinton left for a meeting of the Group of Eight economic powers in Denver. …

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