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Issue Date: Vol. 45, No. 5, May 2005, Posted On: 5/9/2005

New Haven Operator Encourages Vendors Of Cigarettes To Organize For Litigation Against Tobacco Companies

Tim Sanford

NEW HAVEN, CT - Douglas Montano of Modern Cigarette Vending Inc. is seeking to organize his fellow operators in the Northeastern region, and across the country, to address the losses they have suffered from discriminatory promotional policies adopted by some tobacco manufacturers.

Montano reported that his attorney, who has represented operators in prior litigation before courts in the state of Connecticut, has enumerated the options available to vendors who believe that they have sustained losses as a result of the imbalance in promotional programs available to the cigarette vending industry and to other classes of trade, perhaps especially convenience stores.

The attorney observed that there does seem to be credible evidence that cigarette vending operators have been placed at a disadvantage, in competing with other retail distributors, by favoritism displayed by the manufacturers, Montano said; this has been particularly apparent since 1998. On average, he believes, the resulting losses may average as much as $5,000 per machine.

The options Montano is urging operators to explore include filing suit in the Northeast under federal antitrust laws, or joining broader-based legal actions presently underway in other parts of the country. One such suit was filed by 10 cigarette vending operations against Philip Morris. The latest round in this long struggle will be a trial scheduled to start on July 5.

"The first thing we'll need to do is find out exactly how deep this problem is, by taking a head count," the Connecticut vendor explained. This should be done in the Northeast and across the country, he added.

The counting process should be accompanied by determining how many operators are interested in seeking legal redress for the injuries done to them by the long-standing discriminatory promotional policies of the tobacco companies, Montano explained. The results of this survey will help determine the best course of action.

Cigarette vendors interested in learning more about the question of discrimination in access to merchandising support, and the history of related litigation, are invited to call Montano at (203) 865-6153. He is prepared to put them in touch with counsel familiar with the issues, and he will be interested in obtaining a sense of the extent to which the industry is prepared to seek legal redress for the unfair treatment to which operators increasingly have been subjected over the past decade.

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