Big Day for Big Tobacco

  • Share
  • Read Later
JACKSONVILLE, Florida: Tobacco stocks soared minutes after a Florida jury found R.J. Reynolds not responsible for the death of lifelong smoker Jean Connor. Just thirty minutes after the verdict was announced, giants Philip Morris and RJR Nabisco had gained a whopping ten percent in value. Nervous investors had shunned tobacco stocks until the decision was announced: RJR Nabisco was trading as low as $28.37 1/2 before finishing the day up $3.12 1/2 at $32.62 1/2, while Philip Morris bottomed out at $37.87 1/2 and then went up $4.25 at $44.12 1/2. Investors hope that the decision will strengthen the industry's hand in the ongoing cash-for immunity negotiations between cigarette makers and state attorneys general. The industry would pay a large sum, perhaps as much as $300 billion, and agree to numerous restrictions on advertising and sales in order to settle suits by 24 states. With the verdict, Big Tobacco also temporarily shooed away the specter of Norwood "Woody" Wilner, who to date has won the only cash award from a tobacco company, a $750,000 judgment from Brown & Williamson for another Jacksonville smoker who developed lung cancer. That case, as well as this one, is on appeal. Afterward, a tearful Dana Raulerson, who led the suit on behalf of her sister Jean Connor, described her reaction: "Honestly, what went through my mind was how magnificent the tobacco companies are. They kill 170,000 people a year and six people can't see that. They're magnificent." Yes, said Wall Street. They sure are.