Apr. 3 2000
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Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today urged the U.S. Senate to reject legislative efforts to block the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The Senate Appropriations Committee as soon as Tuesday will consider the FY 2000 supplemental appropriations bill, which includes a provision that would block the DOJ from paying for the lawsuit with funds from other federal departments and agencies affected by tobacco-related health care costs. Current law allows the DOJ to use this approach to fund litigation "involving unusually high costs." The DOJ has indicated that the Senate bill in its current form would prevent the Department from proceeding with the lawsuit. An amendment to delete the provision to block the DOJ suit is expected in either the Appropriations Committee or on the Senate floor. "This vote presents the Senate with a clear choice - protect America’s families and taxpayers from the deadly and expensive toll of tobacco or protect the tobacco industry’s profits," said CAMPAIGN President Matthew L. Myers. "The Department of Justice did the right thing in filing suit against the tobacco industry in order to recoup billions of taxpayers’ dollars spent treating smoking-caused illnesses. This suit is based on overwhelming evidence that the cigarette companies have conspired since the 1950s to defraud and mislead the American public and conceal information about the effects of smoking. This is not an industry that deserves special protection under the law, and Congress should reject every effort to grant it." Tobacco use causes more than 430,000 deaths each year and costs billions of dollars in health care expenditures, including more than $20 billion annually just in federal government payments.