Tobacco CEO Says Health Risk Likely
MIAMI (AP) - The third tobacco executive to testify in a landmark trial against the industry said he believes smoking carries significant health risks but denied marketing cigarettes to kids.
Andrew Schindler, chairman and chief executive of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., also said he won't accept limitations on magazine advertising proposed by public-health experts.
The testimony Monday was intended to demonstrate changes to ward off punitive damages for 300,000 to 700,000 sick Florida smokers suing the nation's five biggest cigarette makers. Schindler's concessions about the role of the tobacco industry in smoking-related deaths were limited.
The head of the nation's second-largest cigarette company complained that no one offers the industry advice about reducing health risks.
``If you've got a better idea, you should suggest it to me. I'd be happy to try it out,'' Schindler said.
``No, you wouldn't,'' smokers' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt responded.
Schindler quipped, ``You have an idea?''
Rosenblatt said: ``I sure do. Get rid of the product. It's a killer. It's an addictive killer that you sell, promote, manufacture and have all these ads, all these sexy ...''
At that point, Circuit Judge Robert Kaye ended the exchange.
Tobacco executives have committed to testify at the trial posing the greatest financial risk to the industry since it settled state lawsuits for $254 billion in 1998.
``A large punitive damage award can put at risk the continued existence of this business or this company,'' said Schindler, whose top brands are Winston, Salem and Camel.
Smokers' witnesses testified earlier that the industry can raise $150 billion to $157 billion to pay a punitive award in the case.
The jury already has decided the industry makes defective, deadly products and awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three smokers with cancer.
The other defendants are Philip Morris Inc., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc. and the industry's defunct Council for Tobacco Research and Tobacco Institute.