Tobacco Settlement Reached

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man will disappear from billboards, and by 2009, the FDA may ban nicotine altogether under a landmark, multibillion dollar settlement that will impose unprecedented regulations on America's tobacco industry. Under the agreement, tobacco companies will pay out $360 billion over 25 years into a settlement fund to finance public health campaigns and anti-smoking advertising, while disbursing $4 billion a year into a fund to pay damages in successful lawsuits brought by smokers. "We wanted to do something that would punish this industry for its past misconduct and we have done that," declared Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore. Maybe so, but 20 state attorneys general are pressing ahead with lawsuits against the industry pending ratification of the deal by Congress and the President. While public pressure makes that scenario a near given, TIME's Sam Allis notes that the deal's future is "still problematic." Says Allis:"The danger is they don't know where the opposition in Congress is going to be coming from. They have to get the right people on the Hill to push this through as legislation, and, so far, they don't have those people lined up." In an institution whose ornate hallways are decorated with carved tobacco leaves, that in itself is a sign of these very different times for Tobacco Road.