Industry Witness Questions Minnesota's
Calculation of Smoking Health Costs

Copyright 1998 Associated Press
April 30, 1998

ST. PAUL, Minn., April 29—A statistician testified today that Minnesota's estimate of the health costs of smoking was flawed because it included such maladies as hemorrhoids, schizophrenia and broken bones.

"These are not on the surgeon general's list" of smoking-related diseases, said William Wecker, a consultant hired by the tobacco industry to analyze the plaintiffs' damage calculations.

The state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota are seeking $1.77 billion that they say they have spent treating smoking-related illnesses, along with punitive damages. The plaintiffs accuse tobacco companies of knowing the health hazards of smoking, trying to create doubts about the dangers and manipulating nicotine to keep smokers hooked.

But Wecker questioned the way the state and Blue Cross arrived at their estimate of smoking-related costs. He said the state's calculation of costs for smokers in nursing homes included $108 million for women between the ages of 50 and 94. Wecker said $87 million of that was extrapolated from the cases of two 94-year-old women.

One of the two women, he said, smoked for only eight years -- from age 30 to 38 -- and smoked only four cigarettes a day. She was admitted to a nursing home at 93 with dehydration, anxiety, psychosis and other ailments not considered by the surgeon general to be smoking-related.

The other 94-year-old started smoking at 80 and quit a year later, Wecker said. She entered a nursing home at 87 with depressive disorder, paranoia and other mental disorders not considered to be smoking-related, he said.

Outside the courtroom, tobacco defendants filed a motion today that jurors be told the state and Blue Cross have millions of dollars invested in tobacco-related securities.

Ramsey County District Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick was asked to admit into evidence two charts summarizing the tobacco-related investments.

The investments underscore the "inconsistency between plaintiffs on the one hand challenging the actions of the tobacco industry and on the other seeking investment gain from tobacco companies," defense attorney Peter Sipkins wrote.

The summary charts show the Minnesota State Board of Investment held tobacco-related investments worth more than $195 million in 1993. In 1992, Blue Cross owned tobacco-related investments worth more than $13 million.

In 1995, the year after the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiffs continued to hold tobacco-related investments totaling more than $140 million, the defense said.

The investments include interests in Philip Morris Cos., RJR Nabisco Inc., Loews Corp. and BAT Industries PLC, all parent companies of defendants in the Minnesota case.

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