Een aantal agressieve anti-rokencampagnes in de Amerikaanse media heeft de tabaksindustrie er toe aangezet de organisatoren van deze campagnes voor het gerecht te dagen.
In de campagnes worden de tabaksfabrikanten omschreven als meedogenloze killers die jongeren aan de nicotine verslaafd willen maken. De campagnes worden gefinancierd door een 13-tal staten en een anti-rokersorganisatie. De staten doen mee ondanks een belofte die ze in 1998, in de Master Settlement Agreement, aan de tabaksindustrie hebben gedaan om hun niet meer aan te vallen.
At issue are aggressive campaigns aimed at teenagers and funded by 13 state governments and an anti-tobacco foundation. Tobacco companies say they don’t mind radio and TV spots that say smoking is unhealthful. But in a lawsuit filed in California, the companies say that nasty personal attacks are unfairly tipping juries against them in smokers’ personal-injury suits.
In a Delaware complaint, one company says that Delaware, California and 44 other states promised they wouldn’t pillory cigarette makers when the states signed a $206 billion settlement in 1998 that repaid their Medicaid costs of treating sick smokers.
Why have tobacco firms waited until now to sue? Because their long streak of defeating smokers in civil jury trials has been broken. The companies are blaming a string of courtroom setbacks on the advertising onslaught that paints them, in the words of their California complaint, as “loathsome persons motivated by cynicism, greed and malevolence.”
About 95% of smokers’ cases still are dismissed before trial, but smokers suing as individuals have won 14 verdicts and lost six in eight states and Puerto Rico since 1996. (Big Tobacco has a better record defending class-action suits; cigarette makers’ latest win came last month, when a Florida appeals court overturned a $145 billion punitive damages judgment and ruled that 700,000 smokers were not entitled to sue as a class.)