US government to sue tobacco companies
The United States Justice Department has filed a massive civil lawsuit against the country's major tobacco companies, seeking to recover billions of dollars in long term costs related to treating ill smokers covered by the government health programmes.
The lawsuit alleges that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases that have resulted in an estimated $25bn (£15.6bn) in annual health claims paid by the government. The suit also claims that tobacco firms conspired to conceal the risks of smoking from the public.
In terms of damages sought, the suit is the largest ever brought by the Department of Justice. The landmark filing was announced by the attorney general, Janet Reno, and brought at the behest of President Clinton as announced in his State of the Union address earlier this year.
The tobacco industry has been under intense legal pressure since 1994, when states began to file multibillion dollar claims