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Florida governor hails tobacco settlement


'The straw that broke Joe Camel's back'

August 25, 1997
Web posted at: 2:10 p.m. EDT (1810 GMT)

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles said his state's $11.3 billion out-of-court settlement with the tobacco industry is "the straw that broke Joe Camel's back."

Chiles appeared in state court Monday to announce the settlement, and signed it along with attorneys for the tobacco industry before Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Harold Cohen.

vxtreme Watch the Chiles news conference

The money will be used to compensate the state for public health costs caused by smoking-related illnesses.

"This time the people have won," said Chiles, "we have reached a victory of historic proportions." icon 224 K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound.

Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who helped work out the deal, appeared with Chiles.

Chiles said the state won on three important battlegrounds: "protecting Florida's children, making tobacco pay for the damage it has cost our taxpayers and for cigarette makers to finally tell the truth."

"Most of all it's a victory for the children and their future," Chiles told a news conference held immediately after the signing of the agreement.icon 288 K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound.

He said all cigarette vending machines where children could possibly have access would be banned under the agreement. Billboards promoting cigarettes would come down across the state within six months, with those within 1,000 feet of a school coming down first.

Key points:
  • All cigarette billboards will be pulled down within six months, starting with signs within 1,000 feet of schools.

  • Cigarette vending machines will be removed from places accessible to children.

  • Outdoor advertising in sporting arenas and on mass transit will be banned.

  • Industry pays $200 million by September 15.

  • The ban on tobacco advertising would be extended to public transport systems and sporting arenas, Chiles said.

    An elated Chiles said that the first payment of the settlement, a billion dollars, was due within the next 12 months.

    The rest is to be paid out over 25 years. A significant part of it would be used to educate people about the dangers of smoking, and launch prevention campaigns.

    The settlement does not need to be approved by state or federal lawmakers. It came only a few days after leading tobacco industry managers admitted that tobacco might be hazardous for smokers.

    State wanted $12.3 billion

    Agreement signed

    Florida's settlement is larger than the one Mississippi got in July.

    Mississippi, the first state to take the industry to court, settled its lawsuit for nearly $3.6 billion, a deal equal to 1 percent of the proposed $368.5 billion national settlement with 40 states.

    Florida has 5 percent of the U.S. population, so an equivalent settlement would total $18.4 billion. The state had asked for $12.3 billion -- $1.3 billion for tax money spent treating sick smokers without insurance and $11 billion to punish the industry. Jury selection in the case had been under way since August 1.

    Impact on national tobacco deal


    Analysts had predicted that the tobacco industry would settle in order to improve the industry's odds of winning passage of a national settlement.

    If no out-of-court settlement had been reached, the delicate balance that led the tobacco industry, health groups, attorneys general and class-action lawyers to forge a settlement plan could have been upset, according to experts.

    Sources told CNN Monday that negotiators were now considering a key change in the national tobacco settlement that would give the Food and Drug Administration more leverage in limiting nicotine in cigarettes.

    The White House said Monday that President Bill Clinton would get recommendations from his advisers on a proposed tobacco settlement after he returns from vacation on September 7.

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