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Tobacco companies have violated anti-racketeering laws, have marketed lethal products with zeal and deception and have conspired for fifty years in a campaign to deny the dangers of smoking and to sell cigarettes to children. These are just some of the findings of a federal judge this week.

From Bloomberg News:

Cigarette Makers Lose in U.S. Racketeering Lawsuit

A federal judge ruled that Altria Group Inc.’s Philip Morris USA and other U.S. cigarette makers violated anti-racketeering laws by marketing low-tar cigarettes as healthier alternatives to full-flavored brands.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, while deciding the Justice Department had proved its claims at a nine-month trial that ended in June 2005, declined to order the companies to fund large-scale programs to help smokers quit.

Kessler ruled that the industry must stop marketing “low tar” and “light” cigarettes. The tobacco companies “have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted,” she wrote.

Kessler said “unfortunately” she lacks authority to order a costly smoking-cessation program. The government had sought billions of dollars from the tobacco companies to help smokers quit and to reduce youth smoking.

The government claimed in the suit that cigarette makers conspired in a five-decade campaign of misinformation to deny the dangers of smoking and sell cigarettes to kids.

The ruling comes on top of the recent Florida Supreme Court decision which opened the door to lawsuits by smokers and the families of deceased smokers to bring individual cases for compensatory and punitive damages. We have posted on the Florida situation and encourage anyone who believes smoking has caused injury or death to seek legal advice as soon as possible. The window of opportunity to file a lawsuit will close within a year.

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