Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

December 19th, 2013:

Reuters: Liggett Group to pay $110 million in tobacco settlement

by Jessica Dye, reporting for Reuters:

Liggett Group announced Wednesday that it would pay $110 million to settle thousands of Florida lawsuits accusing the tobacco company of concealing the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

The out-of-court settlement will resolve nearly 4,900 of the 5,300 lawsuits pending in Florida against Liggett and its parent company, Vector Group Ltd (VGR.N), according to the company’s statement. The agreement is expected to be finalized within 90 days, and will entail a lump-sum payment of $61 million, with the remaining $49 million being paid in installments over 15 years to the plaintiffs, the statement said.

Liggett and Vector are the first defendants to reach a broad agreement to end smoker lawsuits in Florida brought by former plaintiffs in a class action filed in 1994 against major tobacco companies. The class action group consisted of all Florida residents who said they or family members had been killed or injured as a result of tobacco-related medical conditions by 1996. In 2000, a jury awarded the plaintiffs $145 billion in damages.

The Florida Supreme Court in 2006 overturned the $145 billion award and ruled that plaintiffs had too many individual issues to proceed as a class. However, the court said that plaintiffs could bring individual lawsuits based on findings from earlier in the litigation that nicotine is addictive and that tobacco use can cause a variety of diseases, including cancer.

That ruling prompted thousands of individual lawsuits from smokers and their family members in Florida’s state and federal courts against major tobacco companies, including Liggett, which manufactured the Chesterfield brand of cigarettes.

“The Engle progeny has been the biggest litigation overhang on our company in the last decade, and this settlement substantially reduces the ongoing litigation risks, as well as related legal fees and expenses, of these cases,” Bennett LeBow, Vector Group’s chairman, said in a statement.

The lawsuits filed after the class was decertified are known as the Engle progeny, after the name of the original lawsuit, Engle v. Liggett.

The company said it expects to take an after-tax charge of $53 million in the third quarter of 2013 related to the settlement.

“We’re pleased that this settlement will provide some compensation to thousands of victims of the tobacco industry’s conduct, but the fight with the remaining cigarette companies is far from over,” said a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Neal Roth of Grossman Roth.

23 Oct 2013

NY Times: New York Approves Law to Raise Tobacco-Purchasing Age to 21

from Anemona Hartocollis of the New York Times:

Buying cigarettes in New York City is about to become a lot harder for young people, as on Wednesday the city adopted the strictest limits on tobacco purchasing of any major American city.

The legal age for buying tobacco, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos, will rise to 21, from 18, under a bill adopted by the City Council and which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said he would sign. The new minimum age will take effect six months after signing.

The proposal provoked some protest among people who pointed out that New Yorkers under 21 can drive, vote and fight in wars, and should be considered mature enough to decide whether to buy cigarettes. But the Bloomberg administration’s argument that raising the age to buy cigarettes would discourage people from becoming addicted in the first place won the day.

“This is literally legislation that will save lives,” Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker, said shortly before the bill passed 35 to 10.

In pushing the bill, city officials said that the younger people begin smoking, the more likely they were to become addicted. And they pointed out that while the youth smoking rate in the city has declined by more than half at the beginning of the mayor’s administration, to 8.5 percent in 2007 from 17.6 percent in 2001, it has been stalled since then.


FOCUS: MIA Secretary General: Illegal tobacco factory busted in Sofia

An illegal tobacco factory was busted on the territory of the capital, Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior Chief Commissioner Svetlozar Lazarov said at a press conference. According to Chief Commissioner Lazarov the money from unpaid excise of the found 5 tons of cut tobacco is around BGN 1 million.

The factory for illegal production of cigarettes was found on Friday within the course of a special police operation carried out in Sofia living district of Orlandovtsi.

Chief Commissioner Svetlozar Lazarov specified the mechanism of work of the illegal factory. He said that after delivering the tobacco, it was being cut then processed and distributed in two directions: in packs of tobacco and cigarettes.

The deliveries were made in restaurants and zoo-shops and from them were redistributed for the entire country. During the course of the operation were arrested two people – a man and a woman, who have advertised the smuggled goods on the Internet. The illegal scheme has been operating for three years, the Commissioner stated.

14 Dec 2013