Government Witness in Justice Department Tobacco Case Estimates Cost of Treating Smokers
Treating the health problems of people who began smoking before age 21 will cost an estimated $840 billion by 2050, Timothy Wyant, a government witness and biostatistics specialist, testified on Monday in the ongoing federal lawsuit between the Department of Justice and several large U.S. tobacco companies, the Bloomberg/Washington Times reports. About 13.4 million of those smokers will die prematurely at approximately the same date, according to Wyant. Wyant said he calculated the cost of illnesses of people who began smoking more than five cigarettes per day from 1954 to 2000 before they were age 21. "Questions regarding the exact counts of deaths or dollars can generally be thought of as debates over which of the two adjectives 'enormous' or 'colossal' better characterizes the magnitude of the adverse health effect," Wyant said in a written statement last week and adopted under oath on Monday (Bloomberg/Washington Times, 5/3).
Wyant's testimony comes in the second phase of DOJ's lawsuit alleging that Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Tobacco and the Liggett Group misled consumers about the health risks of smoking and directed multibillion-dollar promotional campaigns at children in violation of the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (California Healthline, 4/22). DOJ is seeking to persuade U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler to order the companies to pay for smoking cessation programs. Kessler can apply the remedies recommended by witnesses if she rules in favor of DOJ (Bloomberg/Washington Times, 5/3).