Confidential tobacco documents enter public domain

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 18 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1185
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    A huge cache of highly confidential tobacco industry documents is coming into the public domain after the United States Supreme Court refused last week to overturn a Minnesota judge's order for their disclosure in a $1.77bn (£1.1bn) lawsuit.

    After the decision, the industry handed over 39000 documents going back decades to lawyers acting for the state of Minnesota and the healthcare company Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which are both suing for the cost of treating victims of smoking related illnesses. The defendants are nine tobacco companies, including British American Tobacco (BAT), the Council for Tobacco Research, and the Tobacco Institute.

    According to a court special master, who reviewed hundreds of the documents to decide whether they should be disclosed, they show that the tobacco industry was “aware of the addictive or habit forming nature of nicotine, experimented with ‘dosages’ of nicotine, and did not reveal to consumers the extent of their knowledge.” The master, Mark …

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