June 6, 2001
4:27 PM   Subscribe

Smoker awarded $3 billion in lawsuit. Call me crazy, but, even from an anti-tobacco standpoint, doesn't this strike anyone as a bit excessive?
posted by ed (91 comments total)
 
If the man claims he started smoking at 13, and he's 56, that means he's been smoking for 43 years, starting in 1958. I have no doubt that back and even for a good time after he got started, he had no clue about the dangers of smoking. I've heard from my parents before that back then, smoking was just anothing thing to do. People had no idea how bad it was for your health.

The question is when did the cigarette companies put forth enough effort to warn people about cigarettes, enough so that he realized what he was doing? Can't say I'm old enough to know, being that I am 18 and a non-smoker. I do however, find it hard to beleive it took him 'till the mid 90's. Also, $3 billion strikes me as a large sum, but then again I have no sympathy for Phillip Morris.
posted by tomorama at 4:36 PM on June 6, 2001


If someone walked up to me on the street, and put a screwdriver through my head, he'd be put in jail for a long time. Phillip Morris did considerably worse than that to this man.
That being said, I hope this man donates a large amount of any money he actually receives to charity.
posted by Doug at 4:44 PM on June 6, 2001


``If you're addicted, you have no free choice,'' said Ann Anderson, another juror.

Despite the fact that millions have managed to quit? 'Addiction' is an easy term to throw around, but if even people with mental problems can be weaned off of dangerous addictions, then I'm sure this guy could have quit at some point. Still.. not much of a defense for the cigarette company by any means.

However, $3 billion? What a curious amount. I fail to see how $3 billion is equal to the amount of damage caused to this man. A few million to cover his care fees, medical fees and for him to do whatever he wants to do before he dies. If he got $3 billion, nearly all of it will be inherited by someone else. What a waste.

Still, never mind. The cigarette company can just axe a few thousand workers to pay for it. Might as well screw up healthy people's lifes, huh?
posted by wackybrit at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2001


1) It's a symbolic gesture. Huge amounts like that usually get struck down in appeals.

2) Notice that most of it is in punitive damages - ie. the amount has to be large enough to affect Philip Morris financially so that the company has sufficient disincentive to adjust its behavior (I'm not taking sides in this particular case).
posted by heighting at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2001


Well, I'm about as anti-smoking as they come, but this is rather absurd.

I'm not about to put a value on someone's life or argue that Phillip Morris did all they could, but, jeez, at least make it a class action suit or something. Yes, this guy has major health issues due to smoking, but I'm pretty sure he's not the only one.

If he spreads the wealth, as is hoped above, all power to him (although, come on... he didn't know it was bad for him until the mid-90s?). I just hate these one-person-wins-$50 trillion-from-big-corporation lawsuits, even if they're just to 'make a statement.' Just put them out of business and divvy up the remaining assets already.
posted by Mrmuhnrmuh at 4:54 PM on June 6, 2001


If the man claims he started smoking at 13, and he's 56, that means he's been smoking for 43 years, starting in 1958. I have no doubt that back and even for a good time after he got started, he had no clue about the dangers of smoking. I've heard from my parents before that back then, smoking was just anothing thing to do. People had no idea how bad it was for your health.

Call me crazy, but I doubt this very much. Even the slightest amount of common sense will tell you that lighting something on fire and sucking the smoke into your lungs is going to cause health problems.

I think I'm going to ignore all health warnings and fire a bullet into my foot. That should get me a few hundred million when I sue the gun manufactuers.
posted by ljromanoff at 4:56 PM on June 6, 2001


2) Notice that most of it is in punitive damages - ie. the amount has to be large enough to affect Philip Morris financially so that the company has sufficient disincentive to adjust its behavior (I'm not taking sides in this particular case).

Well, that's lovely. Last time I checked, Philip Morris was selling a legal product. The way these lawsuits keep coming, there will soon be a day when the only way to get cigarettes will be through the black market, as they simply won't be profitable enough to sell legally anymore. The government is already getting more from every pack of smokes than the companies that actually manufacture the product.
posted by ljromanoff at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2001


It was known for some years that smoking might be unhealthy. Oddly, it was the Germans, under Hitlder, who did the first science to link smoking and cancer. The warning on packs of smokes was not put there by companies but required by the govt, which then convinced the companies that they would have no liability because a smoker had been warned.
And of course this reward will not be give but will greatly reduced. If awards of this size were issued with a certain frequency, the companies would diversify eve more than they currently are doing as a protection against losses from smoking as a big money-maker.
Addiction for many tough substances is not as easy as some make it out to be. Relapse rates for drugs and booze and smokes is very high.
posted by Postroad at 5:03 PM on June 6, 2001


Three billion? That's obscene. And he didn't know it was dangerous until the mid 1990's? At what point did he start having these health problems? Did he not have a cough prior to 1994?

I dunno -- I don't smoke and I encourage my friends who do to knock it off, but, yeah, this strikes me as fairly outragous. And one of the reasons he got such a large settlement was because the tobacco company's were "making a defective product." -- how's that, again?

I wonder if the procecution put forth any evidence that the guy tried to quit, or if they just shrugged their collective shoulders and said "he couldn't help himself!"
posted by Shadowkeeper at 5:19 PM on June 6, 2001


Phillip Morris is spawn of Satan, yet they are selling a perfectly legal product and nobody held a gun to this guy's head.

My own mom had a heart attack at 44 related to smoking, and even she thinks these people are morons.

Personal responsibilty isn't just a river in Egypt. Or something.
posted by owillis at 5:48 PM on June 6, 2001


I doubt the family will ever see a dime. Philip Morris has a cadre of lawyers (who probably billed three billion for the last year of work alone) and this award will be whittled away over the course of years and appeals. Sadly, lawsuits such as this are little more than nuisance suits to them.

The tobacco companies did contingency planning for this sort of thing years ago (much in the same way Ford set aside money in case anyone with an exploding Pinto came after them) and from what I understand have been eyeing moving their headquarters, etc. to Europe to insulate themselves from further U.S. legal wrangling.
posted by sillygit at 6:13 PM on June 6, 2001


OH MY GOD! I agree with owillis! Quick! someone put a screwdriver through my head! 8^)
posted by BGM at 6:22 PM on June 6, 2001


The government is already getting more from every pack of smokes than the companies that actually manufacture the product.

good! as a smoker i say tax the hell out of them and then tax them even more. when i was paying a couple of bucks for a pack i never thought about quitting...now that a pack is almost $5 i'm thinking twice and have cut way back.

also, if i'm not mistaken, i believe in MA the tobacco tax goes to statewide anti-smoking campaigns which i think is excellent. if i am going to be stupid enough to smoke atleast the tax i pay per pack will help someone else.
posted by saralovering at 6:43 PM on June 6, 2001


Let me guess, he thought cigarettes were a multi vitamin
This whole craze of blaming tobacco companies for personal failings and bad habits is ridiculous.
When are the alcoholics going to sue Budweiser and the rest of the liquor companies for forcing them to drink?
People need to start taking responsibility for their actions. Anyone who smokes 43 years should have clued in a long time ago.
posted by a3matrix at 6:51 PM on June 6, 2001


"Call me crazy, but, even from an anti-tobacco standpoint, doesn't this strike anyone as a bit excessive?"

They are making an example of this. They can't keep this sort of behavior up, these damages being too punitive.
posted by lucien at 7:30 PM on June 6, 2001


good! as a smoker i say tax the hell out of them and then tax them even more. when i was paying a couple of bucks for a pack i never thought about quitting...now that a pack is almost $5 i'm thinking twice and have cut way back.

What a charming position: I can't be responsible for myself, so please Big Mommy government make me do the right thing for my own good.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:30 PM on June 6, 2001


I've heard from my parents before that back then, smoking was just anothing thing to do. People had no idea how bad it was for your health.

Sorry, dude, but that's pure BS. People were coughing up brown chunks long before the Surgeon General announced his findings. The dangers weren't as clearly spelled out, but if you told the average smoker--even 100 years ago--that it could kill you, I don't they'd be genuinely surprised.

I smoked for 14 years, and I quit. I was addicted, and quitting was hard and it sucked. But I knew what I was doing when I started, and so did every other smoker I know. And so did my father. And so did his father.

Tobacco is a hazardous product, and it's addictive, and the industry knew it for years and denied it, but to put the blame on them alone is just wrong. Not only should the smokers themselves bear some of the responsibility, but so should the government itself. After all, they knew the dangers 50 years ago, but they didn't outlaw it.

The government needs to either sh** or get off the pot. Either declare the stuff illegal (or at least regulate it as a drug), or stop making money off it (via taxes and law suits).

Whew...sorry to rant like that. Now, I think I need a cigarette. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 7:31 PM on June 6, 2001


jpoulos: A Gallup Poll in 1958 showed that only 44 percent of Americans (plus the usual 3 percent margin of error) thought cigarette smoking caused cancer. They may have thought it caused plenty of other things, but not cancer.

Source: Parker-Pope, T. (2001). Cigarettes: Anatomy of an industry from seed to smoke. New York: New Press. Page 146-7.
posted by raysmj at 7:38 PM on June 6, 2001


Yes, this is a bit excessive. I agree with the poster that said that sticking something in your mouth and then lighting it and breathing the smoke in can do nothing to help you. I can understand that maybe people back then didn't know it was as bad as it is for you, but come on, breathing any kind of smoke in your lungs can not be a good thing.

What I always found amazing was that at least half the people that are against tobacco and cigarettes are all for marijuana being legalized. Do people find that absurd? Only an observation from reading, I don't have anything on hand to prove it though.
posted by the_0ne at 7:42 PM on June 6, 2001


the_One: Oh, I'm anti-cigarettes, having been formerly addicted to them (and you're never totally off the hook, physically, since cravings can come at any time) and hating that they're always present in bars and concerts, etc. but in favor of legalizing marijuana. I'm in favor of the latter with the stipulation that it can only be sold via brownies, however.

Anyway, I've read that some anti-cigarette people say that, yes, cigarettes should remain a legal product, but a strictly controlled and regulated one (sort of the same thing some drug legalization advocates believe should happen with so-called harder drugs). In short, there would be an attempt to wean people off nicotine in some fashion, but also an attempt to keep providing a fix to those who believe they desperately need it. I've only read bits and pieces of this sort of thing, though, so I can't tell you what the thinking is in great detail.
posted by raysmj at 7:58 PM on June 6, 2001


One: think brownies.
posted by rodii at 8:01 PM on June 6, 2001


``We recognize that Philip Morris is an unpopular company that makes a dangerous product. But we don't believe the evidence supports the verdict in this case.''
-Maury Leiter (PM Lawyer)

yeah, he's fired...
posted by davidu at 8:08 PM on June 6, 2001


Anyone got a light?
posted by UncleFes at 8:13 PM on June 6, 2001


ed: Call me crazy, but, even from an anti-tobacco standpoint, doesn't this strike anyone as a bit excessive?

No, ed. It doesn't to me.

ljromanoff: The way these lawsuits keep coming, there will soon be a day when the only way to get cigarettes will be through the black market, as they simply won't be profitable enough to sell legally anymore.

Yeah, well, that's a terrible shame. Boo-hoo-ho! (When cigarettes are outlawed, only outlaws will ....)

sillygit: Philip Morris has a cadre of lawyers (who probably billed three billion for the last year of work alone) and this award will be whittled away over the course of years and appeals.

Well, I'd rather have the lawyers have the money than it go to PM executives as bonus/profit.
posted by Rastafari at 8:15 PM on June 6, 2001


Self-righteousness must surely be a virtue.

I've heard some very fine words spoken in favour of exercising personal responsability even in case of addiction. Very fine words indeed.

Lead us from temptation.
posted by lagado at 8:17 PM on June 6, 2001


Heh, just kidding. I smoked for 15 years, quit for three, and I'm just wondering how long the safety nazis are going to take to get around to YOU? Sure, laugh it up, anti-smokers - those poor saps out there in the cold at lunch are funny, eh? Wait till those same safety-minded government types come for your Bud (liver damage), your Big Mac (fat), your champaign (esophageal cancer), your car (carbon monoxide), your TV (not educational enough), your computer (you'll get hairy palms looking at that stuff, kid), your music (betcha got some of them PMRC stickers on them CDs, don't you?)....

It reminds my of that quote by Fr. Neiberger (sp?), back in '45: to paraphrase, when they came for the Jews, I didn't speak up, because I wasn't Jewish; when they came for the gypsies, I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a gypsy; when they came for (and so on and so on...); when they came for me, I looked for someone to speak up, and no one was there.

Banishing smokers is wrong, and what the government did to the tobacco companies is wrong. People just let it slide because they haven't come for them yet.

And lastly, where does this guy get off enjoying the wonderfulness of cigarettes for 44 years and then suing the company that produced the product that brought him so much pleasure?? The feel of a full pack, freshly bought; the meaty smack as you pack it one-two-three against the palm of your hand; the little frissons of anticipation as you strip off the cellophane; nocking a tasty cylinder of fragrant Kentucky tobacco in the corner of your mouth; the deluxe heaviness of your Zippo in your hand as you CLANK the lid back, the ruddy smell of the lighter fluid just before you slip the wheel and the gift of Prometheus appears, as if by magic, in your hand; the almost inaudible crackle as the fire takes hold of the tobacco and you drawwwwwwwww.... hold and whuffffffffffffffffff, a great cloud of delicious, fragrant gunmetal smoke.

Aw, baby, you are sooooooo coooooool.

I miss my smokes :(
posted by UncleFes at 8:34 PM on June 6, 2001


In response to the One who is wondering about anti-smokers who support the legalization of marijuana. Marijuana can be ingested instead of inhaled. Also it has some benefits for those suffering from glaucoma,cancer, and AIDS. Cigarettes have no beneficial side effects (aside from the rush of pleasure for the smoker). However, I don't think cigarettes should be outlawed, but I do think marijuana should be legalized.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:49 PM on June 6, 2001


Declare bankruptcy, liquidate the assests, and file for Government protection from the billions if not trillions that you will need to cover years of payments. Then how do you go after something that isn't there? The only end to the lawsuits will be to state that the product will no longer be made. Then we'll find out how fast a black market forms. Something along "Last pack sold in Winston-Salem, NC"

Imagine that, a perfect world where people are smart enough to know, through the proper education and Government warning labels, that any such item or event may or may not be good for you. Oh yes the studies are there to show that the food you eat is bad for you, the water you drink is bad, the air you breath anything that you do is bad. For that you should be protected with warning labels. If that is not enough go after the company who made it. If not enough, go after the company that sold it. If not enough, go after the company that promoted it. If not enough....well you get the idea. Lawyers will be looking for the next likely target like Uncle Fes said. I think Burger King already has a suit against them for selling fattier products to blacks in the inner city *Chicago Tribune or MJS newspaper article that I read some time ago*
posted by brent at 9:09 PM on June 6, 2001


Heh, just kidding. I smoked for 15 years, quit for three, and I'm just wondering how long the safety nazis are going to take to get around to YOU? Sure, laugh it up, anti-smokers - those poor saps out there in the cold at lunch are funny, eh? Wait till those same safety-minded government types come for your Bud (liver damage), your Big Mac (fat), your champaign (esophageal cancer), your car (carbon monoxide), your TV (not educational enough), your computer (you'll get hairy palms looking at that stuff, kid), your music (betcha got some of them PMRC stickers on them CDs, don't you?)....

Bud and champagne (Urbana-Champaign I don't know about) only causes liver damage if you drink too much of it over a long period; in moderation it's good for you. TV can be educational in moderation. Computers run the entire freakin' country, including the government, which had a hand in the evolution of the modern computer world -- you'd most definitely not be posting on the Internet without the U.S. guv'ment. The stickers on CDs are there as a result of the entertainment industry's caving in to pressure and compromising its own supposed values (heh heh), not the government. Wal-Mart also works with the agreement of the recording industry to censor dozens of CDs all the time, and I don't hear you whining about "them private sector types who are comin' after you," and blah blah.

Cigarettes have killed hundreds of thousands of people, and everyone has known why for decades now. The evidence against them has increased considerably in the past couple of decades.

Cigarettes are good, sure, or no one would have wanted them so badly. Nicotine releases enough dopamine to increase your focus. Otherwise, there are no known benefits. You can come up with plenty of other reasons for keeping them legal, you can find plenty to bitch about regarding the government (jpoulos's pointing out that the federal govt., at least, still subsidizes tobacco farms is absolutely legit). But your argument is otherwise totally reactionary.
posted by raysmj at 9:14 PM on June 6, 2001


Yeah, well, that's a terrible shame. Boo-hoo-ho! (When cigarettes are outlawed, only outlaws will ....)

posted by Rastafari at 8:15 PM PST on June 6


How ironic that someone named Rastafari would advocate the making of a drug illegal.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:14 PM on June 6, 2001


UncleFes: It was also not the government which brought a suit here. It was a private individual, represented by a private attorney (working within that much-beloved private sector) who brought the suit. The only people you can blame here, perhaps, if you want to, are the jurors, who are not elected government officials.
posted by raysmj at 9:22 PM on June 6, 2001


Extreme corporate negligence calls for extreme measures.

Do people know smoking is unhealthy? Yes.

Did they know it was unhealthy when this guy started smoking? Yes.

Did they know it was addictive? No.

Why not? Because the industry denied it.

In my book: Extreme corporate negligence. Selling something you KNOW is addictive while denying that same fact.

Nicotine is an addictive additive. Execs knew it was addictive for years, and denied it for the same amount of time.

Why hasn't the government regulated it? Because we live in a democracy which allows for freedom of speech, which leads to lobbyists. As much as we (I) may like to think politicians are altruistic at heart, it's a lot easier to see the other guy's point when he's waving campaign contributions in your face.

We also live in a society that allows for freedom of choice, as long as it is an informed choice.

You think this guy is ever going to see 3 billion dollars? Hell no, even disregarding the fact that he's probably going to die before this gets out of appeals.

Last year, Philip Morris, which also markets a range of snack foods and Miller beer, earned almost $11 billion from tobacco sales alone.

ELEVEN BILLION DOLLARS. Three billion isn't even a third of what this company made on cigarettes alone.

It's no good sending the message, if the message doesn't get through.
posted by o2b at 9:44 PM on June 6, 2001


Raysmj, The government may not be directly involved in this case, but they are about as indirectly involved as you can get. Every juror in that courtroom has been living for the past five years or more in a media storm of government funded anti-tobacco propaganda. How can you claim to have an impartial jury when these people watch TV commercials featuring tobacco executives as heartless unfeeling monsters who only care about money? There is also a set precedent for astronomical rewards in tobacco cases and the government is responsible for much of that too.
posted by Nothing at 9:53 PM on June 6, 2001


Rastafari: The distinction between PM keeping the profits v. the lawyers (retained by PM) getting the money is moot. They are one in the same organism.
posted by sillygit at 10:02 PM on June 6, 2001


Nothing: "The government" was in this case the state governments involved in the Medicaid-related lawsuit that was settled as a result of an act of Congress (which was required as a result of conflicts with anti-trust laws, advertising provisions, etc.). The tobacco companies voluntarily sought and entered into that settlement, which the states wanted to exclude the possibility of future extreme suits such as the above. It was private attorneys and extreme anti-tobacco activists who screamed bloody murder about that, and who got their way in the end. The advertisements you refer to (The Truth, I suspect) were a result of that settlement. Otherwise, the tobacco companies brought plenty on themselves, particularly when the execs went before Congress and all testified that tobacco was not to their knowledge addictive. Otherwise, you're talking a bit of FDA publicity for its wanting to regulate tobacco (prohibited the Supremes) and an ABC story that tobacco was "spiked" with higher levels of nicotine, which garnered ABC a libel suit was settled out of court for millions.

Oh -- then there's that highly praised, but little watched, Al Pacino movie related to the publicity over the CBS "60 Minutes" controversy (a case the tobacco industry again shooting itself in the foot, and leading directly to its being forced to settle the state suits). Did the government somehow finance the making of "The Insider?" Good movie, or so I'm told, but maybe it should get a return on its investment.
posted by raysmj at 10:07 PM on June 6, 2001


or rather, the government should ask for its money back, since "The Insider" didn't do great guns at the box office. You get the point.
posted by raysmj at 10:13 PM on June 6, 2001


Bud (liver damage), your Big Mac (fat), your champaign (esophageal cancer), your car (carbon monoxide), your TV (not educational enough), your computer (you'll get hairy palms looking at that stuff, kid), your music (betcha got some of them PMRC stickers on them CDs, don't you?)....


How many of these so called safety-nazis have denied what their product consists of and its effect on humans? When I goto McDonalds and check the nutrition table I sure as hell done see 'fat-free' listed under the big mac. Big Tobacco has only recently admitted the cancer connection and in the last 50 or so years has been paying for research that curiously shows that it isn't a carcinogen. Not to mention the addiction issue and their marketing schemes.

As for TV, PC, and CDs thats a lousy comparison as those fall more under the moral issue.

3 billion won't even faze a huge corporation like PM. If the legal actions drove PM out of business and another company that actually comes clean about tobacco research and doesnt consider marketing to kids takes over thats fine with me.
posted by skallas at 10:33 PM on June 6, 2001


This ruling makes sense.

It's much less an award to the dying guy (who surely isn't telling the whole truth about his ignorance of tobacco's ability to kill) than it is a punishment to the tobacco company for having the nerve to try to dupe everybody, over and over again, despite clear evidence that their product, when used exactly as instructed, kills the buyer.

And you can't judge this as if the guy were suing a mom-and-pop grocery over a fall on a wet floor. When you punish a very, very rich company -- they sell dry leaves rolled in paper and get billions of dollars for it -- the punishment has to be very large if it is to be felt.
posted by pracowity at 11:05 PM on June 6, 2001


ENAJ.
posted by holloway at 12:22 AM on June 7, 2001


Anyone who says that people back in the 40's/50's knew that smoking is bad for you is fooling themselves. How about those classic ads where doctors (in their office whites) would talk about how "refreshing" a cigarette can be, and would then proceed to smoke one on camera (or hold one for a print ad).
As a kid in the 50's that would sure as hell convince me that smoking wasn't harmful.
posted by Grum at 5:13 AM on June 7, 2001


Well, James I wrote his "Counterblaste to Tobacco" in 1604, so I think that counts as "in the public domain".

That said, Philip Morris deserve all they get. They've used all manner of nasty additives (and won't disclose them all, which is why Marlboro can't be sold in Canada), wilfully massaged the risks of smoking, funded "alternate" research, encouraged illegal importation, etc. Were it not for the accident of history that made tobacco a source of government revenue, it'd doubtless be illegal.
posted by holgate at 5:39 AM on June 7, 2001


raysmj and rodii and others that responded about injesting marijuana:

Look at that raysmj and rodii, we can have a civilized conversation on MeFi. :-)

You know I never even thought of brownies, well ingesting marijuana some other way than smoking. I've actually only ever tried it once (yeah I was a prude when it came to drugs) and hated it, so I've never really been into the marijuana scene but I have heard of people baking it into brownies. Just didn't think of it when I posted. I'm really torn on the legalization of marijuana issue, I think if it's studied enough and can definitely be proven that it is medically necessary, then I'm all for it. Who am I to say that people that need it can not have it? But, I think it needs to be heavily regulated.

Now the cigarettes issue, I don't know where to go on that one. It's been legal for so many years I can't see how just trying to make it illegal all-of-a-sudden can help. Yeah, maybe people back 50 years ago didn't realize what it can do to you, but I know many 15 - 18 year olds that are smoking like fiends now and they know the risks, they just think it's cool. But, the gov't can not take away all that's bad for us. I'd like to have some freedom to do what I want also. If I am a smoker, like I'm sure some of you are, I want to smoke. I know what it can do to me, I don't care. That might be some people's attitudes, but do we have the right to take that away from them? I don't know, I really don't, it's such a hard question.
posted by the_0ne at 6:12 AM on June 7, 2001


Even the slightest amount of common sense will tell you that lighting something on fire and sucking the smoke into your lungs is going to cause health problems.

The tobacco industry advertised heavily to put the public at ease about the health issues involved in smoking, especially in the '30s and '40s. They frequently pictured doctors smoking, called it a healthy alternative to sweets and eating, and there was a company that used the slogan "just what the doctor ordered."

Even the government helped assuage smokers. In 1950, the Federal Trade Commission reported: "The record shows . . . that the smoking of cigarettes, including Camel cigarettes in moderation by individuals . . . who are accustomed to smoking and who are in normal good health . . . is not appreciably harmful."

Have you seen some of the things in early cigarette advertisements?
  • Cigarillos: "they cut down chain smoking."

  • Chesterfield: "'It is my opinion that the ears, nose, throat and accessory organs of all participating subjects examined by me were not adversely affected in the six-months period by smoking the cigarettes provided."

  • Old Gold: "Not a cough in a carload!"

  • Chesterfield: "Cause no ills."

If the tobacco industry can't be held responsible for decades of misleading health claims, bogus scientific studies and outright lies, what corporation should ever be held liable for anything?
posted by rcade at 7:45 AM on June 7, 2001


How about those classic ads where doctors (in their office whites) would talk about how "refreshing" a cigarette can be?

Um, they weren't actual doctors. That was the cigarette companies trying to convince people that they weren't harmful, despite the growing evidence that they were.

If people thought cigarettes were harmless, why would the industry need to use "doctors" to sell their product?

Is that despicable? Sure. But people knew it was bad. Be reasonable.
posted by jpoulos at 8:08 AM on June 7, 2001


The tobacco industry advertised heavily to put the public at ease about the health issues involved in smoking, especially in the '30s and '40s.

Well of course they did, just as the meat industry does now. You can't expect the industry not to try to put the best spin on their product they could.

It can certainly be fairly argued that the cigarette companies have ingaged in fraud over the course of the 20th century - however, that doesn't mean that EVERY SINGLE cigarette ad is fraud, nor does it mean that everyone who smoked or smokes has been defrauded and consequently deserves millions.

Even the government helped assuage smokers. In 1950, the Federal Trade Commission reported: "The record shows . . . that the smoking of cigarettes, including Camel cigarettes in moderation by individuals . . . who are accustomed to smoking and who are in normal good health . . . is not appreciably harmful."

Which is probably true depending on what is considered a "moderate" amount.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:23 AM on June 7, 2001


"People knew it was bad" is not evidence that can be used in a court of law, however. It's just your generalization. The evidence shows that a vast majority of Americans had no idea how bad it was. They were, you could argue, as open to tobacco company propaganda. There were people in previous years who believed, after all, that you could survive a nuclear attack by getting under your desk or living in a fallout shelter just a few feet below ground level. No one knew how much damage could be done to the environment by the way they went about their daily lives. Etc., etc. People knew it was bad to some degree, but they didn't know *how* bad. They had no idea how bad. And the companies continued to lie about it. There are still people out there, jpoulos, who argue with a straight face that you can make cigarettes safer via technology. Even Brookings has published a paper which argues this, by the same guy who argued that cigarette makers helped the federal and state governments by killing so many people -- governments didn't have to worry about these folks getting old, in other words, and more costly. (The tobacco companies used the latter argument as a defense in the early phase of the state Medicaid-related suits.)
posted by raysmj at 8:34 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: I thought you said it is common sense that putting something in your mouth that's burning and inhaling the smoke will be bad for you. Then how can using it in any relative "moderation" be considered good? Boy, you're into contradicting yourself today.
posted by raysmj at 8:39 AM on June 7, 2001


If people thought cigarettes were harmless, why would the industry need to use "doctors" to sell their product?

Two reasons:

1) People didn't think cigarettes were harmless. Prior to 1930, there was a lot of resistance to the product because of vague concerns about unhealthiness. Doctors -- and some of them were real -- helped change that perception among consumers in the '30s and '40s.

2) After the first landmark studies suggesting a link between cigarette smoking and cancer, some tobacco companies figured out that marketing brands as "more safe" was a goldmine.
posted by rcade at 8:49 AM on June 7, 2001


The tobacco industry advertised heavily to put the public at ease about the health issues involved in smoking, especially in the '30s and '40s.

Well of course they did, just as the meat industry does now.


I hope I don't have to go to great lengths to point out how false this analogy is. You can't get addicted to meat, and its health risks are, shall we say, niggling (not to mention not wholly substantiated) compared to that of nicotine.

Which is probably true depending on what is considered a "moderate" amount.

Oh, come on! This strikes me as semantic t-crossing and i-dotting. " . . . in moderation by individuals . . . who are accustomed to smoking . . . is not appreciably harmful." Har. Har. Individuals who are accustomed to smoking should become accustomed to hospital bills.

And I don't think the jury were out of their minds as regards the award. I don't even think they were kidding themselves that the plaintiff would receive even close to that amount. I think they were saying, "This will never fly, but let's send another shot across tobacco's bow." Just my guess.
posted by Skot at 8:51 AM on June 7, 2001


The tobacco industry advertised heavily to put the public at ease about the health issues involved in smoking, especially in the '30s and '40s.

Well of course they did, just as the meat industry does now. You can't expect the industry not to try to put the best spin on their product they could.


The tobacco industry also started a "research council" in the '50s to study tobacco's ill effects. Their conclusion was the same one they used for decades to come? There was no direct, provable link between cigarette smoking and cancer. Lung cancer can be caused by other variables, and blah blah. I know of no comparable research entity founded by the beef industry -- I suppose you mean beef rather than "meat" -- I don't know what ads you are talking about (pork is the other white meat, chicken industry buy-something-other-than-beef tactics, etc.) re beef. Beef in moderation can be fine for you, a good source of protein and iron. People who have smoked in moderation will get nothing nutritious from cigarettes, and can still wind up with cancer or emphysema. You can die from food poisoning too, sure, with any food, but the chances are vastly lower.
posted by raysmj at 8:54 AM on June 7, 2001


that would be poultry industry. Sorry.
posted by raysmj at 9:09 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: I thought you said it is common sense that putting something in your mouth that's burning and inhaling the smoke will be bad for you. Then how can using it in any relative "moderation" be considered good? Boy, you're into contradicting yourself today.

Appreciably harmful - not simply harmful. Read more carefully. I don't believe that a moderate amount of smoking will kill you - moderate being defined as a pack or two per year. Obviously, anything you light up and put in your mouth (not just tobacco) is going to cause you some degree of health damage, as I said before. Pointing out that the govt. stated that certain moderation will not lead to certain doom is no argument that they were conspiring with 'Big Tobacco' to convince people that smoking is harmless.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:33 AM on June 7, 2001


Well of course they did, just as the meat industry does now.

I hope I don't have to go to great lengths to point out how false this analogy is. You can't get addicted to meat, and its health risks are, shall we say, niggling (not to mention not wholly substantiated) compared to that of nicotine.


The addiction argument is irrelevant. A lifetime of smoking will likely give you cancer, a lifetime of meat eating will likely give you heart disease - but that doesn't mean that each industry doesn't have the right to advertise.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:38 AM on June 7, 2001


A moderate amount can certainly kill you, certainly more so than a moderate amount of foodstuffs will. There is no evidence to show otherwise. And "moderate" is a pack or two a year? Oh pluuueeezzzze.
posted by raysmj at 9:40 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: BEEEEEFFFFF. Not meat.
posted by raysmj at 9:46 AM on June 7, 2001


A moderate amount can certainly kill you, certainly more so than a moderate amount of foodstuffs will. There is no evidence to show otherwise. And "moderate" is a pack or two a year? Oh pluuueeezzzze.

Well, I'm not the one who cited that quote as some sort of proof that the government was "in on it." Moderate could mean anything. If one is a social smoker, you're probably only smoking a couple of cigarettes once or twice a week. While no amount is healthy, which should be obvious just by the nature of what one is doing when smoking, I don't buy into this argument that 'Big Tobacco' is tricking people into believing that smoking is harmless then hopelessly addicting them.

Anyone, who like this fellow, started smoking in the late 1950s has no one to blame but himself for his health problems.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:47 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: The tobacco companies *never* argued that smokers had only themselves to blame for their illnesses in the 1950s. You're doing so now, in hindsight. The tobacco companies only did the same after the Surgeon General's report in 1964. (There were a lot of suits filed against smokers in the early '60s.) Even then, however, they argued that direct causation had not been shown to be remotely true and that smokers were only informed of risks, not virtual certainties. Otherwise, if you try to smoke one or two packs a year, the chances are good that you'll end becoming addicted. Otherwise, why do they sell cigarettes in packs of 20? What on Earth are you talking about? Bumming off addicts?
posted by raysmj at 10:03 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: just for the record, if you only smoked one or two packs a year without bumming off addicts, you'd have some pretty lousy cigarettes to smoke, worse than the worst possible generics. You wouldn't even dig them. You could maybe freeze them, but letting them thaw would get to be a chore.
posted by raysmj at 10:07 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: The tobacco companies *never* argued that smokers had only themselves to blame for their illnesses in the 1950s. You're doing so now, in hindsight.

Yes, I'm doing so now. There is no one alive today who will die prematurely from cigarette smoking without being aware of the smoking risks, unless of course they've been living in a cave for their entire life (in which case they wouldn't have access to cigarettes anyway.)

Otherwise, why do they sell cigarettes in packs of 20?

It's illegal to sell singles. The government can't tax 'em.
posted by ljromanoff at 10:45 AM on June 7, 2001


ljromanoff: wow. For the first time ever you and I (sort of) agree on an issue. So this is what it's like on your side of the fence....

Nice to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live here. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: But we were talking about someone who died who became addicted in the 1950s, not now. So what's your point, exactly? It was only in the last couple of years that tobacco company execs began to admit that nicotine is addictive too. This is not ancient history, in other words. The "dangerous product" thing is new.

It's illegal to sell singles now because of health warnings (sell them individually and no one sees the health warning) and the possibility of selling them to minors, not taxes. If I'm not mistaken, you can sell individual cigarettes in speciality tobacco stores. Don't know the history of tobacco taxes. But they've always been sold in packs. Three was a law passed in 1997 to enforce it. Otherwise, I don't believe any consumers wanted single sales before, nor was selling them individually in the interest of tobacco companies, either from an efficiency aspect or in getting people to be, um, repeat buyers.
posted by raysmj at 11:05 AM on June 7, 2001


ljromanoff: wow. For the first time ever you and I (sort of) agree on an issue. So this is what it's like on your side of the fence....

Nice to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live here. :-)


I noticed that this morning, too and believe me I was scared!
posted by ljromanoff at 11:12 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: You can also still buy certain brands in packs of 10, or at least you could a few years ago. I remember being given B&H 10-pack "samples" at a highly popular Mississippi blues festival in the 1980s (MTV sent Martha Quinn there, so don't laugh), back when they were still semi-chic. When I first started trying to quit, I noticed the packs of 10 of low-rent brands again. They were still around about a year ago.
posted by raysmj at 11:18 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: But we were talking about someone who died who became addicted in the 1950s, not now.

1.) He started smoking in the late 1950's. Became addicted? We don't know about that (unless you actually know the guy personally.)
2.) He started smoking in the late 1950's!!! For the vast majority of his life he has been bombarded by anti-smoking messages, and for his entire life most people have known that smoking is unhealthy. Is is not in any way reasonable to suggest that this guy did not know that what he was doing was dangerous.

It's illegal to sell singles now because of health warnings (sell them individually and no one sees the health warning) and the possibility of selling them to minors, not taxes.

If they are sold individually then there's no proof of tax paid since there's no tax stamp. Don't be foolish enough to think that the govt. places a higher priority on their health message than their tax revenue - if they did then the product would illegal, period.

As for people wanting singles before the last few years, I know people who would stop into the local tobacco shop and illegally buy singles for a long time now.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:18 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: You can also still buy certain brands in packs of 10, or at least you could a few years ago.

European cigarettes probably come in packs of a different number as well. That's all beside the point anyway. The point is that although I don't know what the government thought was a "moderate" amount of cigarettes a half century ago was, there is a level where smoking won't cause MAJOR damage to you, which I assume was the point of that study. To suggest that such a comment was meant to lull people into the false belief that cigarettes are safe, though, is inaccurate.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:29 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: Did I not just write that speciality tobacco shops can sell individual cigarettes? There has otherwise been no incentive for selling less than 20, and you still haven't addressed the packs of 10 or sample packs (which could be 10 or five, I believe) matter. If the tobacco companies had the ability to produce packs of 10, why not? Because it wasn't profitable or efficient to do so.

Why do I need to know someone to know he or she is addicted to nicotine? It's a pretty safe assumption. The rest of your argument is partly legit, but you don't note that the cigarette companies *never* admitted fault or even noted that the cigarettes were addictive or in any possible way harmful. They fought health concerns every step of the way. It's not comparable to beef industry PR either, no matter how much you try to say it is.

The rest of your tax matter has nothing to do with the issue at hand, which was a lawsuit filed by a private attorney on behalf of a private individual and not a government.
posted by raysmj at 11:35 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: No, your point was that a moderate amount of smoking was one or two packs a year, which is absolutely no argument at all.
posted by raysmj at 11:36 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: Saying that *one individual* shouldn't get all this money sounds perfectly legit to me. Letting the tobacco companies off with no punishment for their own irresponsible behavior is quite another. And I don't see how anyone could argue such a thing with a straight face. If libertarians stress repsonsibility, then why take up for the tobacco companies with such virulence? No American industry has ever acted so stupidly as a whole. It's less a matter of ideological principle than blind market cheerleading.
posted by raysmj at 11:43 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: No, your point was that a moderate amount of smoking was one or two packs a year, which is absolutely no argument at all.

No, my argument was that moderate COULD mean one or two packs a year. I don't know what the govt. meant, but that could be one definition.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:44 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: Saying that *one individual* shouldn't get all this money sounds perfectly legit to me. Letting the tobacco companies off with no punishment for their own irresponsible behavior is quite another.

I never argued for that. If anyone or anything (incl. tobacco companies) commit fraud, then they should be charged criminally. Some bogus lawsuit from a guy who pretends that he didn't know smoking was dangerous is not justice, it's just stupidity.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:48 AM on June 7, 2001


ljr: But the effect, when you argue against lawsuit against the companies whatsoever and argue that one can't say a person is addicted unless you know that person, etc., etc., is exactly the same. It sounds like you don't care about people, but companies and the right of people to do business under any circumstances. And in saying that they didn't think the cigarettes were addictive, that health risks were not proven, etc., tobacco companies engaged in something that should at least make them half responsible, whether the smoking started in the 1950s or 1980s (when tobacco companies still refused to admit any fault or any danger caused by their product). In accident suits, juries will consider whether one party is repsonsible or whether both parties are somehow liable for damages. It happens every day. I see little difference here.
posted by raysmj at 12:02 PM on June 7, 2001


in saying that they didn't think the cigarettes were addictive, that health risks were not proven, etc., tobacco companies engaged in something that should at least make them half responsible, whether the smoking started in the 1950s or 1980s

Whether tobacco companies admit that their product is dangerous is beside the point. The point is that it is ludicrous to suggest that someone who started smoking in the 1950s or the 1980s almost certainly would be well aware of the risks. There is no way he couldn't be unless he is complete disassociated from society.

If tobacco companies exec perjered themselves, or tobacco companies make fraudulent claims then legal punishment should be administered, but that does not give this smoker the right to $3 billion because there's no way he was ignorant about what he was doing.

In accident suits, juries will consider whether one party is repsonsible or whether both parties are somehow liable for damages. It happens every day. I see little difference here.

Yes, in accident suits. This guy did not smoke for several decades by accident - he knew exactly what he was doing.
posted by ljromanoff at 1:18 PM on June 7, 2001


Why is the tobacco companies refusal to say anything is wrong with their product beside the point? They knew it was addictive, and did nothing in their power to address that fact. They instead fought efforts against this in every step of the way, and to some degree still do. If you say nicotine is not addictive, I'll know to ignore your posts from now on. Oh, but the government needs the taxes and keeps it legal blah blah . . . that's highly ideological anyway, since the FDA did try to have tobacco regulated as a drug.
posted by raysmj at 1:31 PM on June 7, 2001


Or rather, the tobacco companies are responsible to someone -- a state, a class in a particular action or so forth. It's akin to Firestone knowing there is a problem with their tires, but no one doing anything about it for decades besides the Surgeon General, who ends up attacked for it 24-7. It may not be the one individual who should be awarded, but the companies can and should be held liable for the damage done. The only problem I have with one individual winning is that he was hardly the only person affected. But that's the way the courts work a lot of the time.
posted by raysmj at 1:38 PM on June 7, 2001


The evidence shows that a vast majority of Americans had no idea how bad it was.

What evidence is that, exactly? And did they have no idea because the truth was being kept from them, because they didn't want to know (i.e. - never tried to find out) or because they lacked the common sense to figure it out?
posted by Dreama at 1:44 PM on June 7, 2001


It's mentioned much earlier in the thread, dreama. I'm not going to help you out. Sorry.
posted by raysmj at 1:46 PM on June 7, 2001


Why is the tobacco companies refusal to say anything is wrong with their product beside the point? They knew it was addictive, and did nothing in their power to address that fact.

It's beside the point what they said because it's unreasonable to believe that this guy didn't know what he was doing was dangerous whether he got that information from the tobacco companies or not.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:20 PM on June 7, 2001


It's mentioned much earlier in the thread, dreama. I'm not going to help you out. Sorry.

There's also been plenty of evidence mentioned that suggests the exact opposite.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:22 PM on June 7, 2001


According to the Today Show this morning, this same man kicked a heroin habit at the same time he was smoking. Kind of odd...
posted by owillis at 2:47 PM on June 7, 2001


ljr: Then state it, you know it all.
posted by raysmj at 3:28 PM on June 7, 2001


owliss: Just checked the NY Times site on this, and you're right. Nicotine is more addictive than heroin, or so I've long heard. Their molecular makeup is said to be very similar. And I don't doubt it. Still seems a smidgen odd to me too, though. Ray Charles was on the sauce for years after heroin, though (slipped gin into his coffee several times a day, while everyone congratulated him for kicking horse), as did Stan Getz (who was reportedly worse while in the throes of alcoholism). Booze was a substitute. Did he kick one or the other first? That would be interesting to know.

Just a suggestion: Never buy securities from a man you know to be on heroin.
posted by raysmj at 3:43 PM on June 7, 2001


ljr: Then state it, you know it all.
posted by raysmj at 3:28 PM PST on June 7


It's mentioned much earlier in the thread, dreama raysmj. I'm not going to help you out. Sorry.
posted by raysmj at 1:46 PM PST on June 7
posted by ljromanoff at 3:49 PM on June 7, 2001


I guess it's a little much, but no one ever get that's much. There are legal mechanisms that will most like pare back the amount. However, ever time Big Tobacco gets it stuck to them it's victory for all mankind. So, why not?
posted by Bag Man at 4:00 PM on June 7, 2001


ljr: You never said jack, because you don't know jack and are talking out of your a**. I didn't see a single thing you said. Absolutely no direct evidence or any citations. The NY Times article can be found here. He was an alcholic after kicking heroin, which isn't unusual. That this will probably be overturned seems likely, but if the documents found during the state trials wow jurors that much, the tobacco companies are in for some very hard years in class actions, insurance lawsuits, etc.
posted by raysmj at 4:03 PM on June 7, 2001


And sorry dreama, but don't come bursting in during a hot debate and saying, "What evidence?" without seeing what's come before. It's like coming late to a party when everyone is tired and you're all giddy. I could also tell in which direction you were headed. Which is your right, but don't come barging in at the last minute like that. A Gallup survey on this topic can be found here. Maybe people were still in denial - obviously this man was, specifically, in denial about a whole lotta things. But more than a majority of males still smoked back then. Also doesn't mean the tobacco companies were any less responsible for what they did over time. That's all for me on this topic.
posted by raysmj at 4:20 PM on June 7, 2001


ljr: You never said jack, because you don't know jack and are talking out of your a**.

Relax, buddy - go have a smoke or something.

I didn't see a single thing you said. Absolutely no direct evidence or any citations.

Well, smartass, I was only quoting you pointing out that the evidence was already posted in the thread, not that I posted it. Try a little reading comprehsion.

And incidentally, the link to the Gallup poll you posted states that as early as 1954 the vast majority (70% versus 23%) of people thought smoking was harmful, which pretty much debunks the idea that this guy or anyone who's still alive and smoking today could believe that what they were doing wasn't risky.

It's since been reported that the guy was a junkie as well. Obviously the man has a very low regard for his own health - to think he deserves a dime from someone else to compensate him for his bad choices is absurd.
posted by ljromanoff at 4:56 PM on June 7, 2001


OK, dingbat . . . No, I'll just let others go and read the disclaimers in the Gallup article regarding the "harmful" part in the story and how it jibes with what I said earlier.
posted by raysmj at 5:00 PM on June 7, 2001


The dingbat thing was more like giving you a noogie. Lord.
posted by raysmj at 5:05 PM on June 7, 2001


No, I'll just let others go and read the disclaimers in the Gallup article regarding the "harmful" part in the story and how it jibes with what I said earlier.

I read the disclaimer and I don't think it mitigates the findings nearly as much as you'd like it to.
posted by ljromanoff at 5:10 PM on June 7, 2001


ljr: I said people though smoking was harmful but they didn't know how harmful. Also I stated that only 44 percent of people polled in 1958 thought it caused cancer, with a citation to back the figure up. The disclaimer notes that the definition of "harmful" differs for the polls or rather, that people had a different idea of harm in mind. Doesn't contradict a word I said. Not one word. Say whatever you want from now on, but I'm not replying.
posted by raysmj at 5:32 PM on June 7, 2001


Also I stated that only 44 percent of people polled in 1958 thought it caused cancer

"Only" is a subjective term. I'd say that 44 percent of people believing that cigarettes cause cancer in the 1950s, plus the fact that most were aware that it was harmful, makes a strong case that there's no way this guy could be ignorant of the risks he was taking.

Say whatever you want from now on, but I'm not replying.

Well, that's a tragedy.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:02 PM on June 7, 2001


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