Reaction from State and Federal governments has been muted although West Australian health minister Tim Price said the companies should fund a public education program on the effects of smoking. Mike Horan, Queensland's health minister said: "This State spends $80m a year on smoke-related illnesses. If the other States invite us to join them in legal action, we will".
Public reaction was reflected on the stock exchange where Australian-listed tobacco companies suffered a hammering, following Liggett's disclosure, with the market slashing about $35m off the value of WD & HO Wills and Rothmans Australia shares.
Australia's market for cigarettes has shrunk about 8% in the past two years, forcing the tobacco companies into disastrous price-cutting.
Defiant Philip Morris, which is seldom traded on the stockmarket here, said the Liggett settlement "was a complete sham...this newest rumored settlement has nothing to do with the rest of the industry and changes nothing."
Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.