Tobacco Industry Hit With $591 Million Jury Award in La.; Money to go for Stop Smoking Programs

May 24, 2004

A Louisiana state court jury ruled in a class-action suit that the tobacco industry must pay a little more than $591 million to fund a 10-year program to help smokers in the state shake the habit.

The same jury found in July of last year that the industry had lied about the dangers of tobacco and targeted teenagers in marketing campaigns.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers had asked for $1 billion to fund a comprehensive statewide quit-smoking program, the Associated Press reported. The financial verdict is the second part of the case, which was filed in the mid-1990s.

According to Reuters News Service, the defendants include Philip Morris USA, a unit of Altria Group Inc.; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., part of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., a unit of British American Tobacco Plc; and Lorillard, which is part of Loews Corp. and trades as Carolina Group.

Experts reportedly testified for two months as to how the stop smoking programs should be structured. The jury deliberated for three days before returning a ruling.

The case is considered by some to be the first in which a jury decided that tobacco companies should pay for programs to help people stop smoking.

The defendants are expected to appeal the verdict.

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