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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                            (Houston, Texas)
For Immediate Release                                      June 19, 2000


Last year, the Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against the tobacco companies to recover the billions of dollars the federal government spends each year on tobacco-related health care costs. Tobacco-caused diseases kill more than 400,000 Americans each year and cost billions in health care costs, including more than $20 billion in federal payments under Medicare and other programs. The Justice Department's suit would simply hold the tobacco industry financially responsible for reimbursement of these costs.

The suit is based on overwhelming evidence, much of it from the tobacco industry's own documents. This evidence shows that the tobacco companies have conspired over the past 50 years to defraud and mislead the American public and to conceal information about the effects of smoking.

The Congress, in its appropriations bills, is undermining this lawsuit by preventing the agencies that have been harmed and that could recover billions - the Defense Department, the Veterans Administration and the Department of Health & Human Services - from providing any support. If Congress cuts off funding for this lawsuit or interferes with the Justice Department's pursuit of the lawsuit, Congress will be capitulating to the tobacco industry once again at the expense of taxpayers and their children.

It would be wrong for Congress to undermine the authority of the Department of Justice and block this lawsuit rather than allow it to be decided on its merits in court. I call on Congress to support rather than undermine these efforts and allow the Justice Department to keep working to give taxpayers their day in court.