As of spring 1998, forty states have filed class action lawsuits against the major tobacco companies. They're suing the industry for billions of dollars in damages for Medicaid costs paid by the states for the health care of stricken smokers.

In the course of the lawsuits, tobacco executives underwent intensive questioning during depositions. From over forty depositions obtained by FRONTLINE's producers, here are some of the most interesting excerpts. (Click on each name to read the verbatim q&a of the questioning.)

Geoffrey Bible, CEO of Philip Morris,  the world's largest tobacco company.

Bible denies he has ever heard of the committee of counsel, a lawyers group that met over 30 years to discuss tobacco industry strategy. Also claims not to have any knowledge of how many teens smoke Philip Morris cigarettes, and claims not to have ever asked his employees about it.

Stephen Goldstone, CEO of RJ Reynolds

When asked if he thinks smoking causes cancer, he says he would not be surprised that it did.

Laurence Tisch, Co-Chairman of Loews Corporation which acquired Lorillard Tobacco in 1960.

Tisch denies he has ever asked about the position of Lorillard on the connection between smoking and cancer. Also denies having ever asked if nicotine is addictive.

Preston Tisch, Co-Chairman of Loews Corporation

Tisch says he has never thought about whether a corporation that makes 40 billion cigarettes a year has a moral responsibility to investigate the properties of that product.

Alexander Spears III, Chairman and CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company.

Spears says he doesn't believe smoking causes lung cancer or emphysema. Also says that cigarettes are not addictive, and that Lorillard has never made a study on whether teenagers smoke its brands.

Dr. Frank Colby, a scientist and researcher who has worked for RJ Reynolds for over 40 years

Colby denies a definite connection between smoking and cancer. Also says he doesn't believe anyone has died from lung cancer or emphysema caused by smoking cigarettes.


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