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'Big tobacco' action could earn £18 billion

THE Irish Government could recover £18 billion if it sued the country's big tobacco companies for health care costs, one of the world's leading anti-smoking lawyers claimed yesterday.

Seattle-born lawyer Steve Berman represented 14 US states in their legal actions against 'big tobacco'. He has joined forces with an Irish law firm in its bid to represent the Government in suing the country's five main tobacco companies.

Mr Berman said he believed the Irish Government should take a similar action to the US states and said he was prepared to underwrite a significant portion of the cost of the action.

While the Government has not yet decided on whether or not to sue the tobacco companies, an Oireachtas committee on health and smoking has already recommended legal action.

Mr Berman will meet Health Minister Micheal Martin today to put his proposals to the minister.

The US lawyer is working in partnership with Dublin law firm Ward & Fitzpatrick Solicitors.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr Berman said his work had led to the recovery of $206bn in settlements. "I have spent the last six years of my life ensuring that the US tobacco industry paid a just price for knowingly selling a product which was damaging to people's health."

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