A group of smokers suffering diseases like lung cancer and emphysema has sued the tobacco industry in a Florida state court, saying that addiction to cigarettes has caused their health problems.
In a broad assault that seems to include every accusation of impropriety ever made against the industry, six plaintiffs are asking for $200 billion in damages for themselves and all other smokers affected in the same manner.It is the third class-action lawsuit filed against the tobacco industry in six weeks. One of the earlier suits was filed in New Orleans by a group of people who claim to be addicted to cigarettes, and the other in San Diego by people who say they have had to use nicotine patches to stop smoking.
Neither of the earlier lawsuits appears as ambitious as the Miami case for the breadth of its assertions.
In accusing the industry of deceiving the public over the consequences of smoking, denying that smoking is addictive and suppressing research, the new lawsuit includes assertions about the effects of smoking that have gained new currency in the recent Congressional hearings on smoking and nicotine addiction.
At the center of those hearings, and of the new lawsuit, is the contention that the inability of smokers to quit their habit led to serious illnesses, including lung cancer and emphysema.
One of the plaintiffs in the case claims to be suffering from Buerger's Disease, an inflammation of the arteries, that has led to the loss of both legs.
"It's about time, basically, that everyone who has a grievance against the tobacco industry join together," said the plaintiffs' lawyer, Stanley Rosenblatt, explaining why the scope of the case was so wide. "It was done by design."
The new case was filed on Thursday in the Circuit Court of Dade County in Miami, the same court in which a group of flight attendants is suing the tobacco industry in a class-action lawsuit over the potential harm from secondhand smoke in airplane cabins.
Rosenblatt is also representing the flight attendants.
It names seven leading tobacco companies in the United States, including Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, as well as two organizations financed by the companies - the Council for Tobacco Research, which provides grants for tobacco research, and the Tobacco Institute, the industry's trade association in Washington.
The tobacco industry has consistently denied that cigarette smoking is addictive and that evidence exists to prove that smoking is harmful to health.