Jun. 2 2000
Washington, DC — If the tobacco companies are looking for a magic wand to make the Department of Justice's case against them disappear, they must surely be disappointed after today's oral arguments on their motion to dismiss. The Justice Department presented a powerful case that it has authority under current law to pursue this lawsuit to recover the billions of dollars the federal government spends each year on tobacco-related health care costs. The Department also demonstrated that its case 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 health effects of smoking.
Significantly, the Justice Department reiterated that the tobacco companies' historic pattern of deceit and wrongdoing continues today. Despite their public relations campaigns claiming that they have changed, the Justice Department noted that the tobacco companies continue to violate their own legal promises not to target children with their advertising and marketing and they continue to equivocate about the deadly and addictive nature of their products. State Attorneys General have launched at least two investigations of the tobacco companies for violating the provision of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement that prohibits the companies from targeting children. Several attorneys general are investigating the tobacco companies for increasing their advertising in magazines with high youth readership since the settlement, and California has filed suit against R.J. Reynolds for distributing free cigarette samples in ways that make them available to children.
In addition, both Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds still refuse to acknowledge that tobacco is addictive and causes cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. After the much-ballyhooed October launch of its web site that acknowledges the scientific and medical consensus that smoking is addictive and causes disease, Philip Morris has repeatedly refused to accept this consensus and act on it to protect the public health. Asked in a deposition in the Engle trial if Philip Morris has ever stated that it agrees with this consensus, Philip Morris President and CEO Michael Szymanczyk stated, "We have not."
In short, the pattern of deceit and wrongdoing that is at the heart of the Justice Department's lawsuit continues today. Today's oral arguments leave no doubt that this case has merit and deserves to go to trial.
Today's arguments also underscore the inappropriateness of Congressional interference with the Justice Department's pursuit of this lawsuit. Some in Congress are working through the appropriations process to block funding the DoJ needs to continue this lawsuit. It is unconscionable that any senator or representative would seek to provide special protection to the tobacco industry in light of the clear evidence that Big Tobacco continues to target our kids and lie to the American public. We urge members of Congress to oppose all provisions on all appropriations bills that block or impede funding for the lawsuit.