Native Indian tribes to sue tobacco companies
Native American tribes around the nation are quietly preparing lawsuits that could seek $1 billion in damages from tobacco companies for tobacco-related health problems.
The claims likely will be similar to the suits filed by states that netted more than $200 billion in settlements from Big Tobacco, but based on different legal arguments. Former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale says 35 Indian nations have signed onto his lawsuit, which he expects to file in late June or early July in either state or tribal courts. Hale said several Arizona tribes have pledged support, but he declined to name them or say how many had decided to join the lawsuit.
Hale said tobacco companies have specifically targeted Indians and other minority groups with marketing and advertising for tobacco products, which some say has caused an increase of smoking on reservations. "It slowly has increased smoking just because of the mass-media approach by tobacco companies," said Gerry RainingBird of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.
Nationwide, Native Americans have the highest rate of smoking of any ethnic group.