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Judge Throws Out Tobacco Ills Claim

September 3, 1998

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ A judge Wednesday threw out Idaho’s multimillion-dollar claim against the tobacco industry for money spent treating people with smoking-related illnesses.

Fourth District Judge Daniel Eismann said Idaho failed to prove specific violations of Idaho’s Consumer Protection Act, antitrust laws and public nuisance statutes.

``My principal reason for bringing this lawsuit was to stop the tobacco industry from targeting Idaho’s children,″ Idaho Attorney General Al Lance said.

``The real issue is whether it is acceptable under Idaho law for out-of-state businesses to persuade Idaho kids to take actions that are both illegal and harmful.″

Eismann’s ruling essentially mirrored one by a state judge in Indiana earlier this summer. There, a judge held that Indiana lacked the legal standing to seek reimbursement for treating smoking-related illness costs.

Indiana is appealing that ruling, and Lance said he will do the same in Idaho.

Lance had specifically alleged the industry tried to convince minors to use tobacco in advertising and other promotional campaigns. But Eismann said targeting advertising to any specific market segment was in no way a consumer protection violation, and it would be up to the Legislature to make it one.

In a statement issued from its Winston-Salem, N.C., headquarters, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., one of the defendants in the Idaho case, said Eismann’s ruling ``indicates that judges can still view these claims objectively, apply the law properly and not be influenced by the rhetoric directed toward a politically unpopular industry.″

The judge, who last month dismissed from the Idaho case all but the actual tobacco manufacturers, gave the state two weeks to come up with specific allegations that the tobacco companies made false statements in Idaho that nicotine was not addictive.

But even if the state can meet the legal requirements for specificity in those allegations, Eismann pointed out that it would be limited to only minimum financial recovery and ``would not be entitled to recover the cost of providing medical care to persons allegedly injured by using tobacco products.″

Officials have estimated that the state has been spending $10 million a year on direct treatment of smoking-related illnesses.

The national settlement that the industry reached with state attorneys general but rejected by Congress would have provided Idaho with $480 million over 25 years and an inflation-adjusted $20 million a year after that.

In addition to R.J. Reynolds, the state had sued Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., British-American Tobacco Co. Ltd., Philip Morris Inc., American Tobacco Co. Inc., United States Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. Inc.

Earlier this year, the state settled its claims against an eighth cigarette maker, Liggett & Meyers Inc., for more than $1 million, an admission that cigarettes cause health problems and a limit on advertising.

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