A US court has found some of the world’s biggest tobacco companies guilty of racketeering charges over attempts to suppress evidence about the damage caused by their products.
The judgement was applied to global firms Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, RJ Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard Tobacco.
It follows nearly a decade after the industry agreed to pay $246 billion (£138 billion) to the US government to cover the cost of healthcare for smokers.
It is clear that “smoking causes disease, suffering, and death” said presiding judge Gladys Kessler in her ruling.
“Despite internal recognition of this fact, defendants have publicly denied, distorted, and minimized the hazards of smoking for decades,” she added.
The companies had pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy, but the trial revealed that they had struck a “gentleman’s agreement” not to harm each other’s brands.
Anti-tobacco campaigners said that the charges would undermine the tobacco industry’s attempts to portray themselves as responsible businesses.