A freewheeling and engrossing history of tobacco litigation, Zegart's report highlights flamboyant South Carolina lawyer Ron Motley, who won $33 billion in judgments against tobacco companies between 1994 and 1999. Zegart, who has written articles for Ms. and the Nation, spent five years traveling with Motley as the irascible, heavy-drinking millionaire attorney prepared or conducted major class-action lawsuits in five states. The result is an eyewitness account of the siege of the tobacco industry waged by Motley, other high-rolling product-liability lawyers and various state attorney generals, who formed an effective counterforce against the hitherto impregnable citadel of tobacco. Full of great boardroom and courtroom drama, this well-researched book reads like a spy novel or an X-Files episode. Zegart goes deep inside the tobacco companies' research labs, where biomedical scientists knew by the 1960s how addictive and lethal nicotine is and how carcinogenic cigarettes are. He details secret experiments on human guinea pigs; tobacco company whistle-blowers who were fired, blackballed or sent death threats; a clandestine Big Tobacco fund that subsidized research projects that aimed to cast doubt on the deadliness of cigarettes; and Philip Morris's systematic purge of the respected scientists it had hired to make cigarettes safer (since such work proved the company knew its ordinary cigarettes were hazardous). Zegart's damning indictment of the industry's massive 40-year disinformation campaign is persuasive, though, as he notes, these lawsuits and the 1998 industrywide settlement have hardly made a dent in Big Tobacco's profitability or momentum. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000 Release date: 06/01/2000 Genre:
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