Don't Trust the Tobacco Industry's Peace Pipe
Represented by a defense team the Nuremberg defendants would have been proud of, and unlikely to prevail against the tidal wave of lawsuits headed their way, the tobacco industry is now willing to negotiate a settlement. On their terms, of course. And President Clinton and several of the stateÕs Attorney Generals seem all too eager to accommodate them. The sooner itÕs over, the sooner they can claim victory and get back to the real business of politicians: getting re-elected. ThereÕs nothing worse for a politician than to be stuck in litigation for years with so few photo ops. For Americans, nothing could be worse than letting the tobacco industry cut a quick deal.Letting the tobacco industry cut a deal in order to avoid years of protracted litigation is like letting the Nuremberg defendants plea bargain because it would have avoided a messy trial. The tobacco industry has killed more people than Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot. Yet industry executives are being treated like school kids who got caught playing pranks on some of the dumber kids in class. The severity of their punishment seems to be based more on insuring their continued economic viability than on the severity of their crime.FREE WILL AND FREE ENTERPRISEIn wrongful death suits the tobacco industry, claiming that they donÕt have enough scientific proof that tobacco is either addictive or poisonous, has argued that tobacco victims willingly continued the non-addictive and safe practice of smoking cigarettes, taking their lives of their own free will, uninfluenced by anything the tobacco industry did or said. ItÕs as if the Nuremberg defendants claimed, ÒWeÕre not to blame for the Holocaust because the scientific evidence wasnÕt unanimous that Zyklon-B was poisonous.ÓThe question of free will became irrelevant the first time tobacco executives realized they were selling an addictive product and chose to suppress that information. Certainly the tobacco executives didnÕt think their ad campaigns were the only thing that kept tens of millions of people smoking their cigarettes. Before Joe Camel and other campaigns that targeted children, tobacco advertising was a futile exercise in stealing each othersÕ addicts.If anyone else claimed that selling an addictive and poisonous substance was protected by the principles of free enterprise theyÕd be strung up from the nearest lamppost. (Actually theyÕd be mobbed by politicians seeking campaign donations in exchange for making it legal, but thatÕs another story.) The question of free enterprise became irrelevant when the tobacco industry chose to ignore evidence that they were selling a poisonous product.There isnÕt an industry with a deadlier product and fewer government regulations. And now they want immunity from further liability lawsuits.ItÕs the lawsuits that really scare them. Several hundred lawsuits are pending against the tobacco industry. Recent revelations that the tobacco industry suppressed evidence that its products were addictive and poisonous will make the present lawsuits seem like a ripple in a very small pond.PLEA BARGAIN BASEMENTThe problem with any plea bargain is that the tobacco industry hasnÕt been charged yet with many of its crimes. The current suits by the AGÕs only seek to recover medical expenses incurred by 23 states. The AGs can only bargain away things related to their suits.They cannot grant immunity from wrongful death suits. But the ever-subservient Congress might.They cannot preclude individuals or insurance companies from suing to recover what they have spent on health care. But Congress could.They cannot prevent other states from suing the tobacco industry. But Congress might try.The nature of FDA regulation of tobacco is not their concern. But Congress might be willing to draft FDA regulations favorable to the tobacco industry.FDA REGULATIONThe tobacco industry is willing to negotiate a settlement because the full FDA oversight merited by tobaccoÕs addictive and poisonous characteristics would put them out of business.Nicotine is an addictive drug with few benefits that would merit giving anyone a prescription. If it were fully regulated by the FDA it wouldnÕt be prescribed any more often than LSD, heroin or marijuana.Speaking of FDA regulation: Can you imagine tobacco ads in medical journals encouraging MDÕs to prescribe nicotine for their nervous patients, or as a diet aid, or for their patients in need of a post-coital fix?MERCHANTS OF DEATH or ÒJUST KEEPing THE TRADE DEFICIT DOWNÓItÕs no secret that tobacco is an important part of our trade balance. As such it has been accorded the same status as our lucrative arms trade. But can the tobacco industry continue to export a product it will be forced to admit is addictive and poisonous? What effect will international law have on such an exports? Will other nations sue the U.S. tobacco industry for the healthcare costs incurred by their smokers?TAX THE POOR ADDICTThe move to raise tobacco taxes to pay for the medical expenses of uninsured children is a cynical attempt to capitalize on addicts. Does anyone believe that economic considerations drive an addictÕs behavior? If we were dealing with a product that people consumed of their own free will, such a tax would make sense. WhatÕs worse is that not a dime of the tax will come out of the tobacco industryÕs pockets. And Congress, unwilling to jeopardize a source of revenue (for the budget or their campaign chests) will take no further action to regulate the tobacco industry. It almost sounds like the tobacco industry thought this one up.In recent Senate hearings on a proposed cigarette tax increase one senator candidly noted, ÒI frankly have doubts we could pass a bill to tax organized crime.ÓThe tobacco industry asking for immunity from further law suits is like a murderer requiring that murder laws not apply to him in the future, as he fills out an application for another assault rifle.The tobacco industry kills more Americans every six weeks than died in the entire Vietnam war. Are we willing to let them continue their deadly business?TobaccoÕs Top 10 Reasons to Stay in Business10. ItÕs good for the foreign trade balance. 9. ItÕs good for the advertising industry. 8. ItÕs more lucrative than selling land mines. 7. ItÕs good for tobacco industryÕs executive retirement funds. 6. Tobacco advertising is an endorsement of the right of free speech. 5. ItÕs more morally correct than giving torture manuals to South American dictatorships. 4. ItÕs an endorsement of the free enterprise system. 3. Death by smoking helps keep the population down. 2. ItÕs good for the economy. 1. ItÕs good for politicianÕs campaign funds.Top 10 Reasons to Put Tobacco Out of Business10. We could sell them more land mines and kill fewer people. 9. It has made the advertising industry whores for a bad cause. 8. ItÕs deadlier than land mines. 7. Tobacco executives should be given retirement in a federal penitentiary. 6. Tobacco advertising is the worst abuse of the right of free speech. 5. ItÕs killed more people than most dictatorships.. 4. ItÕs the worst abuse of the free enterprise system. 3. Death by smoking is a horrible way to die. 2. ItÕs bad for the economy. 1. It has made politicians whores for a bad cause.Why do people smoke after sex?An informal poll at a recent party of mostly non-smokers came up with two possible explanations. The first is that real people donÕt. All those images of movie stars and starlets blowing smoke by the light of a bedside lamp are just really great product placement.The other theory as to why people smoke after sex is that you canÕt smoke during sex.