Class-Action Status Possible in Teen Smokers’ Lawsuit
Nearly 1.5 million California teens who smoked between April 1994 and December 1999 may soon be eligible to join a lawsuit being brought against some of the nation's largest tobacco companies, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager issued a "tentative ruling" Friday granting class-action status in a lawsuit filed on behalf of six San Diego residents who began smoking in their teens (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/5). The plaintiffs allege that in-store tobacco promotions placed near certain areas such as candy shelves attract children and encourage minors to smoke. The suit seeks $682 million, the estimated profits from sales made on the teen-targeted ads. The defendants include R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard Tobacco. In a statement, R.J. Reynolds said, "There is simply a fundamental lack of merit in trying to handle tobacco-related lawsuits as class action." The company added that under California law, the "plaintiffs must be able to identify who is in the class and which class members have been affected by the alleged unfair business practices. There is no mechanism to do either in this case." Brown & Williamson and Lorillard did not respond to the decision. A final ruling will come after oral arguments are heard next week (Morgante, AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.