Smoke shield

The Bush administration has taken the first step to settle the multi-billion dollar civil lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which many believe will let Big Tobacco off the hook. On June 20, attorney general John Ashcroft named a team of lawyers to explore the possibility of a settlement with the justice department, which had filed the lawsuit. Filed in September 1999, the lawsuit seeks to recover more than us $20 billion in federal health care costs of elderly patients, veterans and federal employees along with an undetermined amount for what the justice department alleged were fraudulently obtained profits from the sale of tobacco products. Anti-smoking activists allege that president George Bush is only trying to repay the tobacco industry for its campaign contributions through such measures.

Meanwhile, us trade officials have intervened on behalf of the tobacco industry to stop South Korea from imposing restrictions on selling and manufacturing cigarettes there. In May 2001, South Korea had announced that it would place a 40 per cent duty on all imported cigarettes in one year. Now it has decided to levy the duty in over four years.

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