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Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

Jan. 22, 1998

Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

Opposing the Tobacco Bailout and Joining “Save Lives, Not Tobacco”

The tobacco deal is corporate welfare of the worst kind and it should be snuffed out. If Congress feels the need to reimburse states for tobacco-related expenses, it can raise taxes on cigarettes.

Public Citizen strongly supports the Principles and Goals of the Save Lives, Not Tobacco Coalition. Like the blueprint for tobacco control released by the Koop-Kessler committee last summer, the Save Lives, Not Tobacco Principles and Goals provide Congress with a roadmap for fair and effective national legislation that does not give the tobacco cartel unprecedented special protections from responsibility for its deadly products.

Civil liability — the ability to sue for damages — would be suffocated under the proposed tobacco deal negotiated between some state attorney generals and tobacco companies last June. The deal would bar consumers injured by tobacco products from bringing class actions as well as any consolidation of cases and eliminate all punitive damages for past industry wrongs. In effect, these changes, plus other pro-tobacco measures, would make it so prohibitively expensive for any individual to sue the tobacco industry that the companies are given virtual immunity from liability.

Congress must not trample over consumers? rights in order to favor an industry which has lied to the public, addicted children and caused the death of millions of Americans. Lawsuits against the industry are what forced the tobacco companies to ask Congress for protection under a deal. This is an industry that has a long history of immoral and illegal activities. Congress should not give away this powerful tool to hold this industry accountable. If an industry guilty as Big Tobacco is given immunity, every other industry will be lining up asking for a similar bailout.

The efforts of the over 200 national, state and local organizations that have joined Save Lives, Not Tobacco will convince Congress that it is time to stop making deals with the tobacco industry and start work on legislation to protect the public health.