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Big Tobacco Stalls Statements in Federal Lawsuit

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As part of an ongoing lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Justice wants tobacco companies to issue public statements written by the department about the dangers of tobacco, but the companies in the suit want to edit them before they are filed, the Associated Press (AP) reported Feb. 4.

The federal judge hearing the case, Gladys Kessler, ruled in 2006 that the tobacco industry had hidden the dangers of tobacco use for decades. Judge Kessler’s ruling included an order for “corrective” statements regarding the dangers of tobacco use. The government has asked to publicly file proposed “corrective” statements about the health hazards of tobacco use on behalf of the companies.

The three tobacco companies represented in the suit – Altria Group, Inc., which owns Philip Morris USA, Lorillard Tobacco Co., and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co — have asked the court to allow them to see and edit the statements before they are filed, “so that both sides can minimize if not eliminate any disagreements in advance of a March 3 deadline,” according to the AP.

Public health advocates argued in a court brief that the tobacco companies should not be allowed to revise the statements. The advocates said that, given the companies’ past “misconduct, there is no basis — or precedent — for negotiating these statements entirely behind closed doors.”

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