Editorial: The Tobacco Suit

The Washington Post
Friday, 9/24/99, p. A30
[continued from Index page back]

[Provided by Tobacco Daily News Summaries]
A WASHINGTON POST editorial supports the Justice Department's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, and says the only way to determine if the suit has legal merit is to proceed with it.

"Unlike the previous class actions and suits by the states, a suit by the federal government treats the problem of the multi-decade scheme by the companies to misrepresent the addictive qualities and the adverse health consequences of smoking as a national one in which all Americans have an interest.

It would be nice, of course, if this public health problem could be dealt with another way. But the industry has resisted the administration's proposals for common-sense regulation of tobacco, and it scuttled the legislative initiative as well. At this point, a lawsuit is the administration's best leverage against the heavy public cost of smoking.

. . . If the department's reading of the law is wrong, it will emerge with egg on its face soon enough. Before the federal government decides, however, to take no action in the face of the clear public harm this industry continues wittingly to do, it is well worth finding out precisely what sorts of recovery the law does permit.

It is also wrong for Congress to use the appropriations process to interfere with the suit. . . . Congress should not put itself in the position of denying a potentially massive recovery for the taxpayer by nickel-and-diming the Justice Department on a major piece of litigation."

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