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STATE FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST TOBACCO COMPANIES Seeks Triple Damages Under Racketeering Statutes

PRESS ADVISORY

STATE FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST TOBACCO COMPANIES Seeks Triple Damages Under Racketeering Statutes

August 29, 1997

ATLANTA - The state of Georgia today filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court against the nation's tobacco companies, seeking $2.78 billion in Medicaid-related damages. In addition, under the Georgia Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) law, the state is seeking triple damages plus punitive damages.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Philip Morris, Inc.; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; the American Tobacco Company and the industry's chief lobbying organization - the Tobacco Institute.

"The toll of human misery from the mass addiction, disease and death caused by their products has not been sufficient to deter the tobacco companies from their unified campaign of misinformation and denials regarding the dangerousness of their products," the lawsuit says. "The tobacco companies have unlawfully shifted the financial responsibility for their tortious and illegal conduct and for their unreasonably dangerous products to the state of Georgia."

The plaintiffs are the state of Georgia; Marge Smith, Commissioner of the Department of Medical Assistance which oversees Medicaid; and Barry Reid, director of the Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs.

The lawsuit alleges the tobacco companies have collectively planned and executed both the largest "public health crisis" and "campaign of corporate misinformation" in U.S. history.

"This is not a lawsuit against tobacco farmers," Attorney General Baker said. "This is a lawsuit against tobacco manufacturers who for decades have known their products are addictive and deadly and have hidden these truths from the public."

The results, the lawsuit says, have been catastrophic.

"The death toll in one year from cigarette smoking alone equals the number of American lives lost in battles in all the wars this country has fought this century," the lawsuit alleges. "Overwhelmingly, the new recruits in this death march are children and adolescents."

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to halt all marketing and advertising of tobacco products to Georgia children.

The lawsuit says Georgia's Medicaid program - the joint federal and state-funded health care program for the poor and disabled - has spent $2.78 billion on tobacco-related illnesses and injuries to Georgia citizens since 1968.

"The premise of this action is that this industry, and not the State of Georgia or its citizens, should pay for the staggering health care costs caused by its (tobacco industry) actions," the lawsuit says.

Specifically, the lawsuit says the tobacco companies have done the following:

  • Since 1954, engaged in racketeering activities that include hiding the harmful effects of smoking from the public; defrauding taxpayers by shifting to the state the cost of providing medical care to the tobacco company's addicted customers and fashioning advertising and promotional campaigns that were false and contrary to facts known by the tobacco companies.
  • Violated the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act by fraudulently misrepresenting the addictive nature of tobacco products and adverse health impacts in order to deceived the public.
  • Violated the Fair Business Practices Act by making implied representations to the public that tobacco products are safe and free of adverse health effects.
  • Committed conspiracy by concealing, altering and suppressing scientific research on the adverse health effects of tobacco products.
  • Were negligent in advertising and selling products that caused thousands of Georgians to suffer various tobacco-related disease.