Tobacco Companies’ Court Filings Still Deny Smoking-Disease Link, Report Says
Despite publicly conceding that tobacco use is a health hazard, several major tobacco companies continue to refute in court filings that smoking causes disease, according to a congressional staff report released yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports. Cigarette companies -- "struggling to repair their tattered image" -- recently have acknowledged on their Web sites that "significant risks" exist with smoking. However, the report, prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), contends that cigarette companies continue to be "evasive" about the addictiveness of nicotine and the health risk associated with cigarettes and secondhand smoke. The report said that four of the five major cigarette companies -- R.J. Reynolds, British American Tobacco, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard-- continue to question whether smoking causes disease, the Times reports. Phillip Morris, however, does not dispute the relationship, while R.J. Reynolds says only that smoking "may contribute" to disease in some individuals. Of the five companies, only Brown & Williamson stated that nicotine is addictive, while all five of the companies denied that secondhand smoke causes disease in nonsmokers.
The report comes as the Senate prepares to hold hearings on giving the FDA expanded authority to regulate tobacco products. Waxman said, "Refusing to admit that nicotine is addictive or that cigarettes cause disease is the equivalent of saying that the earth is flat." Phillip Morris attorney Michael York said, "Phillip Morris is very comfortable with the positions it has taken on its Web site and in the court proceedings." A spokesman for R.J. Reynolds said that the company "stood by the positions on its Web site" but refused to comment further. The report is based on industry responses to a 1999 U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit. While a federal judge in Washington dismissed "significant" portions of the case, the judge has allowed the government to pursue claims that cigarette makers were guilty of fraud and racketeering in "concealing the hazards and addictiveness of smoking." The tobacco industry maintains that the case is "meritless" and has refused to settle. The suit is scheduled for trial in 2003 (Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, 9/18).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.