Tobacco under attack again in the US

The US Justice Department has launched a massive law suit against the major tobacco companies, arguing that the industry deliberately misled the US public about the harmful effects of smoking, starting in the 1950s. The government is claiming $280bn in past profits from Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, Liggett and British American Tobacco.

The lawsuit is being brought under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), legislation which was originally introduced to combat organized crime. The tobacco companies are already paying out huge amounts of money as part of a 1998 settlement with the state governments, which will cost them a total of $264bn.

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