Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Landmark Settlement Boosts Foes of the Tobacco Industry

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Landmark Settlement Boosts Foes of the Tobacco Industry

Article excerpt

A landmark settlement by one of the big five tobacco companies could mark the beginning of a dramatic shift in the way the industry does business.

The agreement by the Liggett Group marks the first time a tobacco firm has conceded paying a dime to anyone who sued it. It may buttress the government's attempt to reform the industry - and boost antismoking efforts.

Among the key pieces of the settlement:

Liggett, the smallest of the major tobacco firms, will give part of its pretax income to fund smoking-cessation programs over the next 25 years.

The company will agree to immediately implement proposed US Food and Drug Administration rules to change the way tobacco companies advertise their products, which critics say target children. In the process, Liggett in effect concedes FDA jurisdiction.

For its part, Liggett will be removed as a defendant in a class-action suit brought by a consortium of law firms representing smokers and former smokers. The suit contends that the tobacco firms and their lobbying arm, the Tobacco Institute, concealed research showing nicotine is addictive. Five other companies are still defendants in the class-action lawsuit.

Liggett is also close to settling other lawsuits brought against it by four state attorneys general.

Health advocates call the settlement, which was announced in New Orleans yesterday, a dramatic concession.

"The portion of the settlement that requires {Liggett} to withdraw its opposition to the FDA assertion of jurisdiction and the FDA rules as published last August is of historic public health importance," says Matt Myers, general counsel to the Coalition on Smoking OR Health, a Washington lobbying group.

Mr. Myers and others believe the settlement will put significant pressure on other tobacco companies to settle the lawsuits as well. "In essence, Liggett said it is better to change how it does business than to risk potential ruin through the courts," Myers says.

Lawyers also believe that if Liggett settles its lawsuits with the states, which are suing to force tobacco companies to pay Medicaid expenses from smoking-related health issues, additional states will join in. "Other state attorneys general will undoubtedly accelerate that process, because states who are not suing will not get any of that money," says Edward Sweda, attorney with the Boston-based Tobacco Products Liability Project. …

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