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World Report

Tobacco Giant Philip Morris Hit With Lawsuit From Poland

Aired January 9, 2000 - 2:11 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

RALPH WENGE, CNN ANCHOR: World health experts gathered in India this weekend to draw up plans for curbing the use of tobacco. Officials with the World Health Organization say tobacco kills 4 million people around the globe every year. Deaths which could have been prevented. Governments in United States have been pursuing tobacco companies in the courts and now, one man in Poland is launching his own legal crusade against multinational giant Philip Morris.

Poland's TVP tells us more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOLANTA WOLOWSKA, TVP CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first U.S. style anti-tobacco trial has began in Poland. A man who lost his mother to lung cancer sued the U.S. giant Philip Morris, a major foreign tobacco company in Poland, and domestic cigarette maker, Rathem (ph) factory.

Slawomir Lubicz-Sienicki is claiming $2.5 million in compensation for losses he suffered when his 59-year-old mother died after smoking 60 cigarettes daily for 42 years. If he wins, thousands of victims of smoking will probably follow him.

SLAWOMIR LUBICZ-SIENICKI, PLAINTIFF (through translator): They made my mother an addict and killed her.

WOLOWSKA: Philip Morris, which has invested nearly $400 million in Poland, rejected the demands.

ROBERT RYCHLICKI, ATTORNEY FOR PHILIP MORRIS (through translator): We offer our condolences because of the tragedy, but we see no connection between this event and our company.

WOLOWSKA: Philip Morris and other tobacco makers have pointed out that people should know the danger of smoking, because there is a warning printed on every cigarette box. But Lubicz-Sienicki argued that his mother began smoking in the early '50s, and the first warnings about the possible danger were put on the cigarettes in Poland 30 years later. That is the first such case in Poland, where about 25 percent of population smokes some 90 billion cigarettes annually.

The authorities are concerned. Parliament approved of president signed a bill, which will ban all tobacco advertisements and sponsorship within two years. Tobacco advertising will be banned from billboards, newspapers, and magazines, and cigarette makers will be prohibited from sponsoring sports, cultural and political events, as well as entertainment and health promotion. The legislation aimed at cutting down the number of smokers, puts Poland ahead of the European Union and anti-smoking standards.

This report was prepared by Jolanta Wolowska from Polish Television for CNN WORLD REPORT.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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