New Fires On Tobacco Road

AFTER SMOLDERING FOR months, antitobacco litigation flared anew. On Feb. 21, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles took the first step toward recovering state-financed Medicaid costs run up by tobacco users. Emboldened by Florida's Tobacco Liability Law, which squeezed past tobacco lobbyists last year, the state's attorneys will assert that Florida taxpayers are victims unfairly paying the price for smoking--to the tune of $1.4 billion in Medicaid bills over five years. Four days earlier, a New Orleans federal judge certified a class-action status for a suit brought by a cadre of the nation's top plaintiffs' attorneys on behalf of millions of smokers. The tobacco industry, which has never paid a dime in court penalties, has vowed to snuff out both legal attacks.

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