June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Hands Major Tobacco Firms A Small Victory

The U.S. Supreme Court handed a substantial victory to major tobacco firms on Monday after refusing to hear an appeal that would allow the government to seek $280 billion in cigarette-maker profits.

The decision by the court not to hear the case is a potentially fatal blow to the government's efforts to try and recover earnings from 50 years of allegedly deceptive practices to get people hooked on smoking.

Monday's decision marks the second time the Supreme Court has refused to hear the landmark case, in which the government under president Bill Clinton launched a massive racketeering suit in 1999 seeking a "disgorgement" demand of $280 billion in tobacco firms' allegedly ill-gotten profits.

The administration said its reason for asking the court to hear its appeal is because the industry's half-century of deception "has cost the lives and damaged the health of untold millions of Americans."

The Obama administration said that the money it seeks from the industry is commensurate with the harm it has caused.

The public health groups involved in the case are:  The American Cancer Society; American Heart Association; American Lung Association; Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights; National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund. 

The groups are most interested in forcing the tobacco companies to pay for a wide-ranging education campaign to discourage people from taking up smoking and to help others quit.

The justices of the Supreme Court also refused to hear the industry appeals to overturn a judge's 2006 findings that cigarette companies defrauded smokers and potential smokers about the dangers of smoking.


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