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Big Tobacco firms found guilty of conspiracy, racketeering

Friday, August 18, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: Big Tobacco, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Yesterday a federal judge found Big Tobacco firms guilty of civil fraud and racketeering, but failed to impose harsh sanctions against the companies in the suit, citing a restrictive appeals court ruling.

U.S. District Judge Gladys E. Kessler said the government's seven-year case against Big Tobacco proved cigarette makers had participated in a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking for the sake of turning a larger profit. Kessler had harsh words for the tobacco industry in her nearly 1,700 page ruling, but said a federal appeals court ruling on the damages sought by the government "unfortunately" did not allow her to impose multibillion-dollar sanctions against the industry.

Kessler forbade the companies from committing future fraudulent acts, ordering Philip Morris, Reynolds American, Lorillard Tobacco Co. and British American Tobacco to issue "corrective statements" by advertising in major newspapers and TV networks, as well as their own websites. The statements must reveal the dangers and addictiveness of smoking, the lack of health benefits from smoking low-tar cigarettes, the design of the companies' cigarettes for optimum delivery of nicotine and the negative health effects of secondhand smoke. Kessler also prohibited the companies from marketing cigarettes as "mild," "light" or "ultralight," saying that the words falsely implied that the cigarettes were less dangerous than regular cigarettes.

Kessler ruled that in over 50 years of doing business, Big Tobacco had "lied, misrepresented, and deceived the American public ... about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke," and that the companies had "suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, they distorted the truth about low-tar and light cigarettes so as to discourage smokers from quitting." Kessler also said the tobacco industry was "a profound burden on our national healthcare system."

"Exactly the same could be said about today's pharmaceutical industry," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and author of several articles comparing Big Tobacco with Big Pharma. "Today's drug companies are guilty of virtually every crime committed by tobacco companies. And like Big Tobacco, Big Pharma will eventually be investigated, exposed and prosecuted for deceiving the public."

The Justice Department said it was "pleased" with the court's liability verdict, but "disappointed" that Kessler did not impose the punitive damages it had sought against the companies. Anti-smoking groups involved in the case expressed similar opinions.

Industry leader Philip Morris announced yesterday that it would appeal Kessler's decision, saying it was "not supported by the law or the evidence presented at the trial."


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