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Tobacco Settlement Draws Fire From Witness

posted on September 9, 2005

A top government witness in a Justice Department lawsuit against the tobacco industry has condemned the government's handling of the case.

Dr. Michael Fiore, in a New England Journal of Medicine article, said spending $5.2 billion a year on tobacco cessation programs over 25 years would profoundly improve Americans' health. Fiore's statement echoes his tobacco trial testimony in May and criticizes the government's decision to seek a $10 billion spread over five years instead of an original $130 billion over 25 years.

It is "such a tragedy that the Justice Department backed away from their original cessation remedy," wrote Fiore. "Can you imagine what would happen if, as we projected with this plan, one million additional smokers quit each year - 33 million over time?"

While Fiore called the Justice Department's decision "puzzling," government officials say the original $130 settlement was not adequately focused on forward-looking remedies.

The "forward-looking" response by the Justice Department was again criticized by Fiore, who says the department had filed a brief on May 12, 2005, arguing that their case was, indeed, forward-looking.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating whether political interference played a factor in reducing the settlement.

Tags: courts industry news smoking tobacco