U.S. lawmaker blasts tobacco firms 'evasiveness'
WASHINGTON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The major tobacco companies remain evasive about health risks of smoking and about their own documented history of marketing to children, a long-time congressional critic of the industry said on Tuesday.
Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, released a report by congressional staff reviewing documents the major companies have filed in a federal fraud and racketeering lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department in 1999.
"While the tobacco companies say they have changed, the report shows that they still refuse to admit the dangers of smoking," Waxman said, calling them "misleading and evasive."
"Despite their attempts to portray themselves as new and responsible companies, leading cigarette manufacturers continue to deny or evade ... the truth about the health effects of smoking, the harm of environmental tobacco smoke, and the addictiveness of nicotine," he said.
The companies mentioned were Philip Morris Cos Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holding Co., British American Tobacco Plc's Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco Co. Inc., which trades as a separate tracking stock, the Carolina Group Inc.
Company spokesmen were either not immediately available to comment or said they would not comment until they had a chance to review the report.
Waxman's hearings into tobacco industry practices nearly a decade ago opened a floodgate of revelations about the cigarette makers' marketing and health research. In a massive settlement of subsequent state lawsuits, the industry promised changes in the way they do business.
A Senate panel holds hearings this week on proposals to expand Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco, although legislative action this year is unlikely.
The last major attempt to enact major tobacco legislation failed, despite a major push in the Senate and the Clinton administration.
The Waxman report said that some or all of the companies are evasive about health hazards, control of nicotine, marketing to children, and document destruction.
"The report finds that when forced to take legally binding positions, the tobacco industry still does not accept scientific consensus about the harms of their products," it said.