LOS ANGELES: City To Sue Over Secondhand Smoke
Los Angeles City Attorney James Hahn announced yesterday that the city is pursuing a lawsuit against 16 tobacco manufacturers for damages related to secondhand smoke. The suit "claims the firms are violating Proposition 65, a voter-passed initiative that requires anyone doing business in the state to warn the public before exposing them to carcinogens or other toxins" (USA Today, 7/16). The AP/Contra Costa Times reports the city is seeking penalties totaling $2.5 billion, a figure "based on a 1997 study conducted by the state Environmental Protection Agency that estimated the number of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke each day." Hahn is also seeking an injunction barring the companies from selling their products in the state until the public can be properly warned of the dangers (Covarrubias, 7/16).
It's The Kids, Stupid
Hahn said the suit was precipitated by a study by state and federal environmental officials that concluded secondhand smoke "is responsible in California each year for as many as 2,200 children being born with below-normal birth weights, as well as 36,000 cases of lower respiratory illness in children under 18" (Pool, Los Angeles Times, 7/16). Hahn said, "I am concerned about all nonsmokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke. But I am particularly concerned about children who are around smokers and, unlike adults, frequently do not have the freedom of movement to get away from it" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 7/16). Tobacco industry attorneys had not yet reviewed the case, but said it likely has little merit. Seth Moskowitz, a representative for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., said, "Federal law is quite clear about the warnings that have to go on cigarette advertising and packaging and we are in total compliance with federal law, which we believe takes precedence over Proposition 65" (Los Angeles Times, 7/16).