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Lungren Challenges Hahn's Tobacco Lawsuit

October 08, 1998

Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren filed papers Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court challenging City Atty. Jim Hahn's right to sue 16 tobacco companies on behalf of all California citizens.

Hahn sued the companies in mid-July, alleging that they violated California law by failing to inform consumers of risk from secondhand smoke.

On Sept. 23, Lungren's office advised Hahn in writing that he had exceeded his authority and urged him to reduce the scope of the suit so that it covered only Los Angeles residents. Hahn refused to back down, saying the language of a state toxics law gives him the requisite authority, and Lungren's attorneys responded with their motion.

A hearing on the issue, and on the industry's attempt to have the suit dismissed, is scheduled for Oct. 15 before Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman.

Hahn's suit seeks an injunction and civil penalties under Proposition 65. When he filed the suit, Hahn cited studies by the California Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations, which state that secondhand smoke is responsible for up to 2,200 children being born with below-normal weight each year, and that children's asthma is exacerbated by secondhand smoke.

In July, a federal judge in North Carolina ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrongly classified secondhand smoke as a dangerous carcinogen. The government is appealing that decision. It is not clear whether that ruling will have any impact on the Los Angeles case.

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