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Five Patients Sue Japan Tobacco

May 15, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ Seven people sued the Japanese government and the nation’s largest tobacco maker Friday, blaming their cancer and lung disease on cigarettes.

The suit, against former state monopoly Japan Tobacco, is the first by cancer patients demanding JT take responsibility for tobacco-related disease, said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Yoshio Isayama.

The plaintiffs include three lung cancer patients, another with throat cancer, and three with emphysema, Isayama said. Some of them had undergone surgery, and have trouble breathing without oxygen tanks.

They are demanding 10 million yen ($74,600) each in compensation.

The lawsuit is the latest in a handful of cases over the past several years in Japan for tobacco-free workplaces, non-smoking areas in restaurants and damages for cigarette-related health problems.

Japan Tobacco could not be reached Friday evening. But national broadcaster NHK quoted company officials as saying that the lawsuit was regrettable and that there is no reason to pay compensation.

In the suit, the plaintiffs also demanded that JT, the nation’s only tobacco maker, stop selling its products through vending machines and end ads in magazines, newspapers and on broadcasts, Isayama said.

``Today, it is internationally known that tobacco causes health problems,″ he said. ``The Japanese government and JT have intentionally kept Japanese smokers uninformed in order to promote their sales, while they have known the potential hazards all along.″

JT controls about 80 percent of Japan’s $35 billion tobacco business.

Cigarette producers face few limits in advertising in Japan. Cigarette pack warning labels do not mention diseases linked to tobacco.

Japan Tobacco has won three similar lawsuits over the past decade.

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