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Some cigarette suppliers bow out of tobacco business.

A handful of tobacco, filter, and flavor suppliers are trying to cut down on their associations with the cigarette industry for fear of being sued, according to recent news reports.

"Anyone supplying the components that go into a cigarette would be well advised to run for cover," said Richard Daynard, head of the antismoking Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.

The tobacco industry in general has good reason to be scared, Daynard said. In February, a federal judge in New Orleans cleared the way for a massive class-action lawsuit in which millions of nicotine-dependent smokers are suing leading U.S. tobacco companies. Their suppliers face similarly scrutiny.

In the first part of this year, according to the Wall Street Journal:

* Nearly a quarter of shareholders of Kimberly-Clark Corp., maker of Huggies diapers, cigarette papers, and sheets of reconstituted tobacco, voted in favor of or abstained from a proposal to drop all its tobacco-related business. The firm is one of many defendants in a suit brought by West Virginia for recovery of $1 billion in welfare costs for smoking-related illnesses. (West Virginia v. American Tobacco Co., Civ. A. No. 94-1707 (W. Va., Kanawha County Cir. Ct. Sept. 20, 1994).)

* Harley-Davidson, Inc., which licenses its name for use on cigarettes, has entered litigation with Lorillard Tobacco Co. At the heart of Harley-Davidson's claim is its desire to keep its name off cigarettes and cigarette packaging. To do that, it has to break its licensing agreement with Lorillard. (Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Harley-Davison, Inc., No. 95 Civ. 1369 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 1995).)

* Manville Corp. sued to terminate its contract with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to supply glass fibers, which are believed to be used in a newly developed smokeless cigarette. (Schuller Int'l, Inc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 95-S-535 (D. Colo. Mar. 6, 1995).)

* Union Camp Corp., International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., and Pfizer Inc. each have cut back or stopped selling flavorings that are mixed with tobacco to make cigarettes. (Suein L. Hwang & Yumiko Ono, Companies Crush Out Ties to Cigarettes, Wall St. J., Apr. 3, 1995, at B1.)

* Alan Blum, the founder of Doctors Ought to Care (DOC) - an antismoking group - said that withdrawal of suppliers' business "offers glimmers of hope in antismoking circles, but it's really just that - glimmers.

"There's no evidence according to my seismograph of any rumblings that companies [withdrawing their business] will actually do any economic harm to the tobacco industry," Blum said. "I'll be happier when I see corporations that disengage from tobacco companies then turn around and actively try to stop them from doing business."
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Author:Brienza, Julie
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 1, 1995
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