Wednesday, January 20, 1999

Government to sue to cigarette makers to recover smoking costs

The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will follow the states' lead and sue cigarette makers in an effort to recoup hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government has spent caring for sick smokers, President Clinton said Tuesday.

        “You know, the states have been right about this. Taxpayers shouldn't pay for the cost of lung cancer, emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses — the tobacco companies should,” Mr. Clinton told Congress in his State of the Union address.

        Without elaborating, Mr. Clinton said Justice Department lawyers were “preparing a litigation plan to take the tobacco companies to court and, with the funds we recover, to strengthen Medicare.”

        He said smoking has cost U.S. taxpayers “hundreds of billions of dollars under Medicare and other programs.”

        Through Medicare, the federal government pays for health care for 35 million elderly and disabled Americans. The states and the federal government jointly pay for Medicaid insurance for the poor.

        The Medical Care Recovery Act gives the government the right to recover the costs of treating people if a third party's negligence is to blame.

        Scott Williams, a tobacco industry spokesman, called Mr. Clinton's announcement “a blatantly political act,” saying the Justice Department had looked at the issue in the past and decided not to act on it.

        “The White House continues to choose confrontation over solutions,” Mr. Williams said.

        Mr. Clinton did not say when the Justice Department would file the lawsuit.


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- Government to sue to cigarette makers to recover smoking costs
Lukewarm criticism from GOP
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Text of State of the Union address
State of the Union address (Take 2)
State of the Union address (Take 3)
State of the Union address (Take 4)
State of the Union address (Take 5)
State of the Union address (Take 6)
State of the Union address (Take 7)
Clinton's lawyer presents scathing rebuke
Both parties praise president's counsel
Chabot: Ruff got it wrong
Defense low-key till end
GOP collecting, editing queries