Smoking a cigarette
Smoking a cigarette - 


SCOTT JAGOW: The European tobacco industry quit buying U.S. cigarette makers a while ago. But today Britain's Imperial Group said it'll pay about $2 billion for the fourth-largest American tobacco company. That's Kentucky-based Commonwealth. Commonwealth makes discount brands like U.S. Gold and Sonoma. Nancy Marshall Genzer tells us why Europe is back.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: European tobacco companies have avoided the U.S. market for the past 10 years because of legal risks.

Imperial says those risks are fading away and Commonwealth has never been named in a class action lawsuit.

But Robert Weissman of the anti smoking group Essential Action says never say never about tobacco litigation.

ACT WEISSMAN: The companies generally continue to lie, mislead or deceive about the health risks of cigarettes, the health harms of second-hand smoke, and I think they're facing serious liability going into the future.

Commonwealth does face three product liability lawsuits, but the company was formed in the 1990s and most of the class action suits focus on older cigarette makers.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.