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Firm Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against Tobacco Companies

September 5, 1996

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A group of Minnesota smokers sued a number of tobacco companies Wednesday, claiming the companies concealed the addictive nature of nicotine and manipulated nicotine levels to get them hooked.

The lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County District Court against industry leaders including Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. and American Tobacco Co.

The lawsuit asks for class-action status to include all cigarette smokers in the state who use products made by the companies.

In May, a New Orleans federal court threw out a similar class-action lawsuit filed by Dianne Castano, whose husband died of lung cancer. Lawyers are filing similar, but simpler lawsuits in state courts around the country.

In addition to their allegations of addiction coverup and nicotine manipulation, the Minnesota lawsuit alleges that tobacco advertising has been aimed at young people with the intention of getting them hooked.

``The elimination of this particularly egregious target marketing is a major goal of this lawsuit,″ said attorney Randy Hopper of the Minneapolis law firm Zimmerman Reed, one of 60 law firms involved in the Castano case.

Attorneys said the lawsuit is the eighth class-action filed against the industry, joining actions in Alabama, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Those cases are in addition to 13 lawsuits filed by states, including Minnesota, to recover money spent treating tobacco-related illnesses.

The tobacco industry insists nicotine is neither addictive nor manipulated, and says class actions are inappropriate because every smoker reacts differently to cigarettes.

``We’re essentially seeing a group of traveling plaintiffs’ lawyers, searching in desperation for a court somewhere that is willing to overlook and essentially disregard the wisdom and experience of courts elsewhere that have recognized that these cases as class actions just cannot work,″ said Philip Morris attorney Michael York.

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