Document: Potential smoking habits of 5-year-olds reviewed
March 7, 1998
Web posted at: 6:18 p.m. EST (2318 GMT)
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ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) -- A marketing research firm looked at the potential smoking habits of children as young as age 5, according to documents ordered to be released in Minnesota's case against the tobacco industry.
In a blow to the industry, the judge in the case said tobacco companies "blatantly abused" attorney-client privilege and ordered them to turn over more than 30,000 documents by Monday morning.
Ramsey County District Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick wrote in his order that the tobacco industry wrongly categorized documents in an attempt to keep them private.
"Upon review of randomly selected documents, it has been determined that defendants have in numerous instances claimed privilege where none is due and blatantly abused the categorization process," he wrote.
The documents, said to contain more information on the tobacco companies' attempts to lure young smokers, include a Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. report that discussed "the starting behavior of children as young as 5," according to the judge.
Judge concludes firms abused privilege shield
The tobacco industry had argued that the documents should remain protected by attorney-client privilege.
But Fitzpatrick said there was enough evidence to conclude the companies had abused the privilege shield. On that basis, he granted the so-called crime-fraud exception that allows the documents to become public.
"The 40-year wall of fraud and secrecy has been breached," said an elated Michael Ciresi, lead attorney for the state of Minnesota. "We intend to take it down brick by brick. This has far-reaching implications for the defendants and their officers and lawyers."
Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota are suing the tobacco industry for $1.77 billion in costs they say have been spent to treat tobacco-related illnesses.
Other defendants include Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. and British-American Tobacco Co. Ltd. Liggett Group Inc. has settled with the state and is a defendant of Blue Cross only.
A court-appointed special master, Mark Gehan, recommended last month that attorneys for Minnesota could use the documents.
An example of the "abuse of the categorization process," the judge wrote, is a Brown & Williamson document that was placed in the category of "advertisement."
The document, written by Kwechansky Marketing Research, Inc., was labeled "for internal use with the B.A.T. [British-American Tobacco] group of companies."
One heading in the document was called "Apparently Problematic Research." It said research was conducted among teen-agers ages 16 and 17. The behavior of young people toward starting and stopping smoking was reviewed.
"The studies reported on youngsters' motivation for starting, their brand preferences, etc. as well as the starting behavior of children as young as 5 years old."
The research also looked into "young smokers' attitudes towards 'addiction,' and contain multiple references to how very young smokers at first believe they cannot become addicted, only to later discover, to their regret, that they
Another document, from Brown & Williamson, said: "There appears to have been an effort, at different times, to disguise the fact that material was routinely sent to B&W or, at least to attempt to make it attorney-client
There was no immediate response from Brown & Williamson.