When the nation’s tobacco industry and dozens of state attorneys general reached a $206 billion legal settlement last November, the prospect of protracted courtroom battles over health-related cigarette suits seemingly went up in smoke.

But the litigious fumes have hardly dissipated. Even as tobacco companies are preparing to shell out all those billions of dollars to state and local governments, they are just beginning to gird for the next round of legal battles. The states have had their say, but now it’s time for union trust funds and Indian tribes to seek reimbursement for the costs of treating smokers for cigarette-related illnesses. In California alone, more than two dozen such suits — with plaintiffs ranging from the Screen Actors Guild to the Pechanga Band of Mission Indians — have been filed in local courts.

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