ad info
* U.S.

 Headline News brief
 news quiz
 daily almanac

 video archive
 multimedia showcase
 more services

Subscribe to one of our news e-mail lists.
Enter your address:
Get a free e-mail account

 message boards

CNN Websites
 En Español
 Em Português


Networks image
 more networks

 ad info



Justice Department sues big tobacco firms



Big tobacco lawsuits


Tobacco under attack

September 22, 1999
Web posted at: 1:34 p.m. EDT (1734 GMT)

In this story:

Profits called the motive

Government wants its money back

Decades of tobacco company misconduct


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Wednesday against major tobacco companies, asking for billions of dollars to recover federal smoking-related health care costs.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleging that cigarette companies have conspired since the 1950s to defraud and mislead the American public about the effects of smoking.

"The U.S. government alleges that for the past 45 years, the companies that manufacture and sell tobacco have waged an intentional and coordinated campaign of deceit," said Attorney General Janet Reno.

Profits called the motive

Reno said the tobacco companies were motivated by greed.

"It has been a campaign designed to preserve their enormous profits, whatever the costs in human lives, human suffering and in medical resources," Reno said.

The attorney general said tobacco companies have known for years that cigarettes were dangerous, but didn't want to lose money.

"The cigarette makers have also realized since 1953 that the truth represents a mortal threat to their business," Reno said. "At every turn, they denied that smoking causes disease and denied that it is addictive."

Reno contends cigarette makers have known for years about the health dangers of smoking  

Government wants its money back

Reno said the consequences of the tobacco industry's alleged actions have been staggering, with 400,000 Americans dying each year from cigarette-related illnesses. She said the federal government spends more than $20 billion a year in taxpayer money to treat those diseases.

It is that money the Justice Department is suing to recoup.

"Today we filed a lawsuit that seeks to recover from the tobacco companies the billions of dollars that American taxpayers spend each year on smoke-related illnesses," Reno said.

Reno said that over the years, the tab for smoking-related illnesses has accumulated, and taxpayers have footed the bill.

"On behalf of the taxpayer, we're asking the tobacco companies to pay their fair share," Reno said.

Decades of tobacco company misconduct

The Justice Department alleges that internal documents show that top tobacco executives met at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in January 1954 and agreed to wage a long-term public relations campaign of fraud and deception.

"We allege that in carrying out that campaign, they pulled no punches," Acting Assistant Attorney General David Ogden, told a news conference Wednesday. "For decades they repeatedly and consistently denied that smoking cigarettes causes disease, despite their knowledge that it does."

The suit names Philip Morris Inc.; Philip Morris Companies; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; American Tobacco Co.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. Inc.; Liggett and Myers Inc.; The Council for Tobacco Research U.S.A. Inc.; and the Tobacco Institute Inc.

This report was written by Amanda Barnett

Debate smolders over effect of California smoking ban
September 17, 1999
Judge delays damages hearing in landmark tobacco case
September 7, 1999
Lawyers win hefty tobacco case fees
July 30, 1999
Penalty phase of Florida tobacco lawsuit set for September
July 15, 1999
Tobacco takes a hit
July 12, 1999
Young smokers mean big bucks for tobacco firms, tax coffers
June 30, 1999

American Journal of Public Health
American Smokers Alliance
Smokers United
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
The Tobacco Trials HomePage
Action on Smoking and Health
    • The Tobacco Industry Table of Cases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    • Tobacco Information and Prevention Source
Foundation for a Smoke-Free Environment
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.