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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 04:38 GMT 05:38 UK
Tobacco companies to pay health costs

A healthcare insurance organisation in the United States is to get more than $17m from the tobacco industry, to help cover the costs of treating sick smokers.

The decision came in a ruling by a federal jury which found the companies liable for using deceptive business practices.

It is the first time a third party has succeeded in recovering health care costs from cigarette companies. The case was brought by Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of New York's largest health care insurance organisations, which accused the companies of playing down the risks of smoking.

The companies were found not guilty of fraud and racketeering conspiracy, which could have carried tougher penalties.

Some of the companies have said they will appeal against the ruling. Last year a group of Florida smokers was awarded more than $140bn in damages, in a verdict which is also being appealed.

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