Big Tobacco Lied to Public, Judge Says
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post
Posted: November 11th, 2006
A federal judge ruled yesterday that tobacco companies have violated civil racketeering laws, concluding that cigarette makers conspired for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of their product. But U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said that under a 2005 appellate court ruling, she could not impose billions of dollars in penalties that had been sought by the Justice Department in its civil racketeering suit. In the opinion...Kessler wrote that there is "overwhelming evidence" [that the industry] conspired to violate, and indeed violated, federal racketeering laws. "In short," she wrote, "defendants have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted. Over the course of more than 50 years, defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people...about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke." Kessler added that the companies "suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction...and they abused the legal system in order to achieve their goal -- to make money." The Justice Department lawsuit originally sought $280 billion. But the U.S. Court of Appeals [ruled] a company could not be forced to turn over past profits as a way of preventing future misconduct. The Justice Department subsequently proposed a $130 billion penalty to pay for anti-smoking programs, but...it scaled that back to a total of $14 billion.