Jun. 7 2001
Washington, DC — As President Bush and Congress decide whether to continue the federal government's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, ordinary Americans sitting on a California jury this week sent a loud and clear message: Big Tobacco should be held legally accountable for decades of deadly deception and wrongdoing. The California jury rightly concluded that Philip Morris, the nation's largest tobacco company, had engaged in wrongdoing of such unprecedented scope that it warranted a record punitive damage award to an individual plaintiff of more than $3 billion. This ruling follows last year's $145 billion verdict against the tobacco companies by a Florida jury and other rulings finding the industry liable for the harm it has caused.
These rulings show that Americans who hear the evidence believe that the tobacco industry should be held accountable for decades of covering up their knowledge that their products are addictive and cause cancer and other deadly diseases, lying to the American people about these products, marketing them to kids and engaging in other harmful practices. Our nation has paid an incalculable price for this wrongdoing in disease, death and health care costs. Surely the same overwhelming evidence that produced these verdicts will convince the President and Congress to support the federal tobacco lawsuit so that taxpayers, too, have their day in court. It would be unconscionable for our nation's leaders to kill this lawsuit and in effect grant the tobacco industry a pardon for all the harm it has caused.
The California verdict also sends a powerful message to investors that, despite the tobacco industry's efforts to convince them otherwise, the industry continues to face a substantial liability risk. No amount of industry PR can change the fact that tobacco products continue to kill more than 400,000 Americans and addict a million more people every year, nor can it eliminate the mountain of evidence of industry wrongdoing.