Tobacco Companies Criticized
WASHINGTON (AP) - A Cabinet member said Sunday that the $145 billion punitive damage award against the tobacco industry shows that cigarette companies must change their practices. And the Senate's top Republican scolded them for being arrogant.
Jurors in a Florida case made their decision Friday after less than five hours of deliberation. The ruling was the largest jury damage award ever.
``I think it's a very clear message to the industry. You've got to change the way do you business, we don't want you to infect our kids, we want you to be straight with us about the risks of tobacco smoking,'' Health and Human Service Secretary Donna Shalala said on CNN's ``Late Edition.''
The five companies - Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard Tobacco, and Liggett Group Inc. - plan to appeal, and the verdict likely will be tied up in the appeals process for years.
The smokers who sued wanted the tobacco companies to pay $196 billion as punishment for making a product that kills 430,000 Americans a year and for misleading the public since the 1950s, when internal research concluded smoking causes cancer.
Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, agreed with the assessment that the companies have ``been guilty of arrogance.''
``And I think they have targeted some of their advertising, knowingly or otherwise, to young people. And that's wrong. I think they needed to be more honest about the product. I think they needed to make the product safer, and they could have. It's pretty hard to defend that,'' the Mississippi Republican said on ``Fox News Sunday.''
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the likely GOP presidential nominee, said on ABC's ``This Week'' that he was ``concerned about the litigious nature of our society.''
``I know it's easy to, you know, bash ... tobacco, and I understand how tobacco is a very unhealthy product and it ought to be regulated.''
Vice President Al Gore, the likely Democratic nominee, was not questioned about the case during his appearance on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''