Tobacco industry remains besieged

Six new whistleblowers are now helping US states in their lawsuits seeking to recoup health care costs of smokers from tobacco companies, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore said yesterday.

Speaking at a tobacco litigation conference in Florida, Moore said he also has been contacted by lawyers in South America, Australia, Canada and Britain about filing cases against tobacco companies.

He told lawyers and industry analysts that the attack on the tobacco industry is growing with the emergence of the new whistleblowers and steadily increasing interest by states, cities and now foreign countries in suing cigarette makers.

"This is not only a state case, but a national case ... a case that will go worldwide," Mr Moore said.

Nine states have now sued tobacco companies seeking reimbursement of Medicaid costs to cover smokers' illnesses. Mr Moore said that Connecticut, New Jersey and Kansas also plan to file similar cases.

"My prediction, and it is a pretty reliable prediction, is that there will be at least 11 others [that will file] by the end of the summer," he said.

In addition to the states, some individual cities and counties are considering suits. San Francisco, for example, has already filed and Los Angeles' board of supervisors has voted to take a similar action.

Mr Moore said he has been informed that San Jose, California also wants to join in the litigation.

He said that the movement among cities appears to be occurring in states that have not shown interest in filing tobacco suits.

Mr Moore, the first state attorney general to sue the industry, said the state cases have received a huge boost from former tobacco company workers who have come forward with information about their employers.

He said the six new whistleblowers from three different tobacco companies are helping the states with information about nicotine addiction and about the alleged misuse of attorney-client privilege between tobacco companies and their lawyers.