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    Lawsuit Targets Tobacco Industry

    Lawyers contend cigarette makers conspired to hook children on smoking.

    A lawsuit led by attorney Johnnie Cochran targets the tobacco industry, accusing companies of violating federal racketeering laws to hook children on cigarettes.

    Tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson, "aggressively targeted youth with ads that concealed the health risks and addictive nature of cigarettes," said a draft of the suit obtained by The Associated Press.

    The tobacco firms contend they do not market to children. Such advertising is prohibited under a 1998 settlement agreement between the companies and the state attorneys general who sued them.

    The suit seeks class-action status for millions of youths who took up cigarettes before their 18th birthdays.

    Lawyers seek to recover the money that youth smokers have spent on cigarettes since they began smoking - whether or not their health has suffered from smoking or whether they have become addicted. It also seeks the creation of an educational fund to campaign against youth smoking both now and in the future, the report said.

    The filing of the suit comes just a day after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit handed the tobacco industry a victory when it dismissed lawsuits from union health care funds and three foreign governments that had sought compensation for treating sick smokers.

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