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Senate Appropriations Committee to Vote Tuesday on Granting Tobacco Industry Special Protection from DoJ Lawsuit

Vote Comes Just Days After Florida Jury Finds Tobacco Industry Guilty of Unprecedented Wrongdoing
July 17, 2000

Washington, DC — The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to heed the message of a Florida jury and vote to hold the tobacco industry accountable for its wrongdoing, rather than grant the industry special protection from a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill, which is expected to include a provision to cut off funding for the DoJ lawsuit. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) is expected to offer an amendment to provide the funding. (It is also possible that the full Senate will vote on this issue this week when it considers the Agriculture Appropriations Bill.)

The Senate vote comes just days after a Florida jury punished the tobacco industry with a record $145 billion punitive damage judgement, finding that the industry had produced a defective and deadly product for decades and concealed their knowledge of its harmfulness.

'The Florida jury sent a loud and clear message that the tobacco companies should be held accountable for their unprecedented deceit and wrongdoing,' said William V. Corr, Executive Vice President of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. 'It is unconscionable that the Senate Appropriations Committee is considering doing the exact opposite and granting the industry special legal protection. America's families deserve their day in court to stop this tobacco industry wrongdoing and recover the billions of dollars that tobacco has cost taxpayers.'

The Justice Department filed its lawsuit in 1999 to recover the billions of dollars federal health programs spend each year treating tobacco-caused diseases, including $20.8 billion under Medicare, $1 billion under veteran's health care, and $1.6 billion under military health care. The lawsuit also seeks injunctive relief to prohibit the tobacco companies from engaging in deceptive and illegal practices such as marketing to children.

The House of Representatives on June 23 voted 215 to 183 to support funding for the lawsuit, defeating an effort by the tobacco industry and its congressional allies to block the funding.