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Flight attendant with cancer describes smoky airliners

August 11, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ An American Airlines flight attendant with lung cancer testified today that she regularly worked in ``very, very, very, very dense″ cigarette smoke when smoking was allowed on U.S. flights.

Norma Broin, lead plaintiff in a landmark $5 billion lawsuit filed by the nation’s flight attendants against the tobacco industry, said her only options on airliners were breathing ``a lot, versus a lot more″ smoke.

The difference in air quality before airline smoking was banned in 1990 and now is ``absolutely night and day, significant difference,″ the 21-year veteran said.

Mrs. Broin, 42, of Stafford, Va., was allowed to tell jurors that she has cancer, but details of her illness will be withheld until a second segment of the trial on individual diseases and treatment.

Mrs. Broin adheres to her Mormon Church’s health code and never has smoked _ a fact crucial to the case.

The claim by 60,000 current and former flight attendants is the first secondhand smoke case to go to trial. It is also the first class-action suit against cigarette makers to go to court.

Meanwhile, the flight attendants’ trial likely will delay a trial on a separate lawsuit by some 500,000 Florida smokers who are suing the tobacco industry. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Stanley Rosenblatt, also represents the flight attendants and wants to finish their trial before beginning the second case.

The smokers’ trial had been set for Sept. 8, but Circuit Judge Alan Postman said today he will consider putting off final pretrial motions and the opening of jury selection until December.

Elsewhere, lawyers for cigarette makers told a panel of federal appeals court judges today that the industry’s future is jeopardized by a lower court ruling allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.

The appellate panel, sitting in Warm Springs, Va., is hearing arguments from both the tobacco industry and the FDA on U.S. District Judge William Osteen’s April 25 ruling that blocked the FDA from regulating tobacco advertising but allowed the agency to regulate the sale, distribution and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

Walter Dellinger, the acting U.S. solicitor general, said the FDA has no intention of banning tobacco but wants to restrict sales to minors so they don’t become addicted.

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