Tobacco industry representatives will meet this week for the first time with the U.S. Department of Justice to discuss settling a government lawsuit that accuses cigarette makers of misleading the public on the dangers of smoking, industry officials said.
Last month, Philip Morris Cos. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. said they believe the lawsuit is without merit and should be dismissed, though they said they would accept the government's invitation to discuss a possible settlement.
Representatives from R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. declined to comment further on the meeting.
The government claims the tobacco industry engaged in a 30-year pattern of racketeering to mislead the public and Congress about the health effects of smoking. The federal suit originally sought $20 billion in damages.
The government's decision to explore a settlement was prompted partly by concern that its case isn't strong, Justice Department officials have said.