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Government Files Suit Against Tobacco Companies

WASHINGTON -- In a court filing of more than 2,500 pages, the government argued on Tuesday that tobacco companies' past and continuing conduct indicates "a reasonable likelihood" of future violations of regulations governing the cigarette advertising and the hazards of secondhand smoke. The U.S. Justice Department plans to target the companies' marketing practices in litigation to get under way in September, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the suit, first filed in 1999, Justice seeks $280 billion from U.S. cigarette makers. The total tops the $246 billion that major tobacco companies agreed to pay states in a 1998 settlement.

The defendants include Altria Group Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., British American Tobacco PLC's Brown & Williamson unit, Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Vector Group Ltd.'s Liggett Group Inc.

Tobacco companies argue the industry has changed its ways since it signed the agreement with 48 states. "Most people would agree that the way this product is sold has changed dramatically since the late 1990s, even before the lawsuit was filed," said William Ohlemeyer, associate general counsel for Altria.
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