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No Trial Delay for Tobacco Industry

NEW YORK --A federal court judge denied a tobacco industry request to delay the government's $280 billion racketeering case against the industry, reported the Dow Jones Newswire.

Tobacco manufacturers were asking for the case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 21, to be postponed until Jan. 10. The companies were requesting the delay in order to allow time for a federal appeals court to decide whether the government can seek $280 billion in penalties. A federal appeals court plans to hear oral arguments on the issue on Nov. 17, almost two months after the scheduled start of the trial.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler signaled she was likely to reject the industry's request by moving forward with plans for the upcoming trial at a pretrial conference.

The defendants in the lawsuit include Altria Group Inc. and its Philip Morris USA unit, Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Vector Group Ltd.'s Liggett Group. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson, which merged earlier this year to form Reynolds American Inc., are also named in the suit.

The case was originally filed in 1999 by the Clinton administration. It accuses the tobacco industry of deliberately conspiring to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking and of working to recruit young smokers.

The industry denies the charges and claims it has changed the way it markets and sells its products.
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