U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler rules in favor of the Justice Department’s RICO lawsuit seven years after it was initially filed. In her ruling, she writes that the tobacco industry “survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system. Defendants have known many of these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly, and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, to the government and to the public health community. Moreover, in order to sustain the economic viability of their companies, Defendants have denied that they marketed and advertised their products to children under the age of 18 and to young people between the ages of 18 and 21 in order to ensure an adequate supply of ‘replacement smokers,’ as older ones fall by the wayside through death, illness, or cessation of smoking. In short, defendants have marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.”42
Despite this decision, the tobacco industry is delighted “the court did not award unjustified and extraordinarily expensive monetary penalties that had been sought by the government.” 43 Indeed, tobacco stock prices went up immediately after her ruling. 44 Judge Kessler had concluded that an earlier Court of Appeals ruling prevented her from fining the industries for billions of billions of dollars in damages sought by the Justice Department.