The two biggest tobacco companies in the United States have agreed to pay $6.25 million to support the country’s largest online collection of tobacco industry documents.
Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. agreed to the settlement, which is part of the United States’ case against the country’s largest cigarette companies. In 2006, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that tobacco companies had suppressed internal documents as part of a broad campaign to deliberately deceive the American public about smoking’s effect on health. The court ordered the companies to provide public access to all documents they turned over in smoking-and-health lawsuits for the next 15 years.
Over the next four years, the companies will fund and increase access to an online database of more than 13 million internal documents, the Associated Press reports. The companies will pay the money into a court fund, which in turn will hand the money over to the University of California San Francisco, which runs the online library.
“This agreement helps make sure that these documents will be accessible to researchers, journalists, students, lawyers, the government and the public at large—anyone who is interested in learning more about the defendants’ efforts to mislead consumers about the effects of smoking,” Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement.