Fines Have Firms Smoking: Tobacco Industry Refuses to Add to Settlement
Goldreich, Samuel, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Tobacco companies stiffened their opposition to any changes in the proposed national liability settlement yesterday, but Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore said they should "stop whining" and accept higher penalties if teen smoking doesn't drop.
The nation's five biggest tobacco companies went "as far as they can go" in June when they agreed to pay $368.5 billion over 25 years to settle 40 state health-claims lawsuits, said Phil Carlton, a lawyer representing the tobacco industry.
Appearing before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Mr. Carlton rejected White House demands that the industry pay more than $2 billion a year in extra penalties if reductions in underage smoking do not meet settlement targets.
He also said the tobacco companies won't support amending the settlement hurdles to Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate nicotine as a drug.
"We have not agreed to change one word and not one syllable," Mr. Carlton said.
That contradicts the Sept. 4 testimony of Scott Wise, a lawyer representing RJR Nabisco, who told the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee that he "would not disagree" with Mr. Moore's assurance that the industry made concessions on FDA regulation that would be acceptable to the White House.
Mr. Moore, lead negotiator for the states that have sued the industry to recover health care costs, told reporters yesterday that the deal could collapse if the tobacco companies do not agree to White House demands, especially higher penalties for not curbing teen smoking. As part of the agreement, the states would drop their lawsuits, and the industry would win immunity from class-action suits and punitive damages.
"The tobacco companies better stop whining and realize that they are just going to have to pay more," Mr. Moore said.
He said the White House wants to impose a fine of as much as 40 cents per pack to ensure teen-smoking-reduction targets are met. …