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SAN FRANCISCO -- Makers and sellers of smokeless tobacco products have agreed to settle a California lawsuit by posting new health warnings and paying $2.75 million for anti-tobacco education.
The settlement requires U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. and eight other smokeless tobacco manufacturers to comply with a 1986 California law requiring consumer warnings for products known to cause cancer or birth defects, according to Reuters.
San Francisco, which in 1996 became the first U.S. city to sue the tobacco industry over the medical costs of smoking, in 1998 joined a suit being filed by the nonprofit Environmental Law Foundation that accused smokeless tobacco manufacturers of enticing children to use cancer-causing products designed "to taste like candy," the report said.
The suit targeted producers like U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, which dominates the market for smokeless tobacco with such products as "Skoal" and "Copenhagen," and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., a unit of British American Tobacco Plc.
It also named a number of major convenience store and drug store chains and supermarkets, saying all violated state laws banning the sale of toxic goods to children.
While smokeless tobacco currently carries warnings that it is "not a safe alternative to cigarettes" and "may cause mouth cancer," the plaintiffs demanded a far more detailed explanation of the health risks, as well as money for damages already caused.
Under the terms of the settlement, the tobacco companies will distribute new health warning signs to all stores that sell chewing tobacco and snuff products, along with instructions on how they should be posted. They will also pay $2.75 million to fund anti-tobacco education programs around the state.