SPECIAL ISSUE, ALL FEATURE ARTICLES
What's Good for Tobacco is Bad for Public Health
Money & Politics
The Tobacco Papers
I. Meet the Tobacco Papers: Where They Come From, How to Find Them, What's Missing
Litigation has been the driving force in raising the profile of the tobacco issue in the United States to unprecedented heights. Both a new round of private class action suits and lawsuits filed by U.S. states have highlighted tobacco industry deception, drawn out industry whistleblowers, stoked the issue's political fires and uncovered devastating industry documents.
The state suits began in 1994, when the state of Mississippi decided to seek reimbursement for the medical care costs incurred by the state government in treating Medicaid patients who became sick or acquired disease as a result of smoking. This novel theory successfully shifted attention away from individual smokers, and to the industry. The argument that smokers knew the potential risks of their actions would be no defense.
Other states soon followed the Mississippi lead, with 40 states having filed suits by mid-1997. So far, Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Minnesota have all achieved multi-billion dollar settlements with Big Tobacco
The Minnesota case was widely viewed as the best prepared, and the state presented its full case to a jury before reaching a settlement.
A unique element of the Minnesota case was the extraordinary work the state's lawyers had done in the "discovery" phase of the suit. Discovery permits each side in a lawsuit to demand documents, including confidential materials, from the opposing litigant. The tobacco industry has long claimed broad exemptions from the discovery rules, primarily by arguing that millions of pages of important documents were covered by different forms of the attorney-client privilege, a set of doctrines that let parties to a lawsuit keep confidential materials involving correspondence between lawyers and clients or papers produced in preparation for litigation.
The Minnesota lawyers were ultimately able to defeat these claims for millions of pages of industry documents. And, with Congress demanding to see the secret industry documents as it considered tobacco legislation that might have settled the lawsuits against the tobacco industry, Big Tobacco unilaterally posted the documents on the world wide web. The U.S. House of Representatives later posted tens of thousands of additional documents that it demanded from the industry.
These documents reveal stunning industry secrets -- as well as the manner in which the industry operated on a day-to-day basis -- but they are quite difficult to sort. The indexes published by the tobacco companies are very inadequate (they maintain a separate index that they have not made public), the text of the documents is not searchable, the software to search the documents is somewhat unwieldy and the structure of the industry search sites is awkward.
The result: very few reporters or researchers have carefully scrutinized what is probably the greatest cache of internal industry documents ever made public.
In this issue, Multinational Monitor presents what is probably the most detailed examination of the company documents yet published. MORE >>
IV. Big Tobacco Goes Global
"Whatever you may think is happening to the cigarette market of the USA and the UK, the tobacco business world-wide is still very much a growth business and BAT distinguishes itself from the world average growth rate of 2.5 percent by growing at a point or two above this."
So declared the then-chair of BAT, Peter Macadam, in an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in London in 1980. In the nearly two decades since that speech, the international markets have taken on ever greater importance for the tobacco multinationals. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, the two leading U.S. companies, sell nearly two-thirds of their cigarettes in foreign markets, and earn nearly half of their profits overseas. MORE >>