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Obama Administration Seeks $300 Billion from Tobacco Industry

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Both sides are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in an ongoing court battle between the federal government and the tobacco industry over cigarette companies' long history of deceiving the public about the health risks of smoking.

The Associated Press reported Feb. 19 that the Obama administration has appealed a lower court ruling denying the government's attempt to collect $280 billion in past tobacco profits and to compel the industry to pay $14 billion for a national smoking-cessation program. Tobacco firms, on the other hand, are appealing the lower court's ruling that they illegally concealed information about the hazards of smoking.

“For the last half century, those defendants have engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity and a conspiracy to engage in racketeering that has cost the lives and damaged the health of untold millions of Americans,” said U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

Miguel Estrada, a lawyer for Philip Morris, said the 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler denied the companies their First Amendment rights to talk to the public about smoking. “As long as these statements were true or made in good faith, they fall squarely within the First Amendment's Speech and Petition Clauses, which provide constitutional protection for 'debate on public issues,'” said Estrada.

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