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South Carolina Joins Tobacco Lawsuit

May 14, 1997|(Times Wire Services)

South Carolina became the first tobacco-producing state to join the list of states suing the tobacco industry to recover money spent treating smoking-related illnesses. State Atty. Gen. Charles Condon, who had previously said people should be responsible for their own health-damaging behavior, said he wants to ensure that his state will have a say in the closed-door talks. Condon said he changed his mind after being told that only states with lawsuits pending would be part of the negotiations. He said he wanted to make sure that South Carolinians with legitimate claims will receive their fair share of any settlement. He said he decided to file the lawsuit after the recent admissions of Liggett Group Inc. that the tobacco industry did target minors, knew its products caused disease and knew tobacco was addictive. "But I also think our tobacco farmers deserve representation in this litigation, since they have not deliberately set out to encourage young people to smoke," he said. Tobacco is South Carolina's No. 1 cash crop. The tobacco companies were not immediately available for comment. . . . In a separate development, more than 150 public health groups, women's organizations and anti-tobacco advocates announced their support for a Senate bill that would expand health-care coverage for children by increasing cigarette taxes by 43 cents a pack.

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