Tobacco firm papers 'show deception'

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The Independent Online
Washington (Reuters) - A leading congressional anti-smoking crusader yesterday released confidential industry documents that he said suggest the tobacco industry and its lawyers may have schemed to "defraud and deceive" the public for decades.

Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, made public a handful of the thousands of confidential Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company documents which he said show disturbing patterns of "potentially criminal or fraudulent conduct" by the industry.

Mr Waxman said he was making them public because if the three dozen state attorneys general suing the tobacco companies reach a settlement, which would have to be approved by Congress, he wants to ensure broad disclosure about the companies' past activities and require accountability for the future.

Mr Waxman also said he was introducing a Tobacco Accountability Act, which would set up a five-member independent board to be appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The board would not have regulatory authority but it would have subpoena powers to ensure that the industry make public all documents relating to the health effects of tobacco, the "manipulation or control" of nicotine, and the sale or marketing of tobacco products to children.

He said the Liggett documents show that tobacco lawyers invoked attorney- client privilege to shield the role the attorneys played. For instance, he quoted from one document in which Liggett's counsel intervened to block marketing a safe cigarette because it could "result in infinite liability" by in effect admitting that the regular product was unsafe." Mr Waxman released documents specifically from Liggett, but they did not include the 3,500 documents that describe Liggett's joint defence strategies with other tobacco companies.