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Board Urges State To Join Tobacco Suit

A state board says a law barring sale of tobacco to minors is not enough. It wants Washington to join a growing number of states suing the tobacco industry for damages and a halt to advertising targeting kids.

The state Liquor Control Board passed a resolution urging Attorney General Christine Gregoire to “hold the tobacco industry accountable and responsible for the financial impact their products have upon the health-care costs of the citizens of this state.”

The board is responsible for enforcing state law banning sale of tobacco products to people younger than 18.

The resolution, approved Wednesday, follows Gregoire’s disclosure last week that she is considering joining several states that have filed lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

The suits seek to win billions of dollars in damages to cover what the states say is the cost of tobacco-related illness. Some also seek to ban advertising the states contend is designed to get minors to use tobacco products.

Gregoire said she would decide in a month or so whether to join the suits following review by department lawyers.

Mary McKnew, a newly appointed member of the three-person Liquor Control Board, said Thursday the panel hopes Gregoire finds the grounds and the will to file suit.

She said new tools to combat youth smoking are sorely needed.

Recent legislative hearings have convinced McKnew that kids who want tobacco have no problem buying it. “We know people are selling kids tobacco and not even bothering to check IDs,” she said.

She said there is evidence tobacco companies are targeting children through advertisements.