Coughing It Up Small

A federal judge threw the book at the tobacco industry yesterday, and a big book it was – a 1,742-page ruling that took more than a year to write. U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the industry “lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public” and ordered it curtail certain forms of advertising.

The ruling also laid out in the starkest terms what the industry and its lawyers had done for half a century: “In short, defendants have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.”

But it was a Pyrrhic victory for anti-smoking forces. Until 2001 it had been your government that was leading the battle to make the tobacco industry cough up $280 billion of past profits as a penalty. But then an election happened – you don’t have to guess who the tobacco industry supported – and the new Justice Department scaled back its demands to a paltry $14 billion, and a conservative appeals court ruled that the manufacturers could not be forced to give back profits at all. So Judge Kessler could only order the companies to stop lying in their advertising and take other corrective actions whose cost can be counted in the mere millions.

Despite the judge’s brutal excoriation of them, these merchants of death won big. If you didn’t think so at first, check the stock market. Altria (Philip Morris) was up 3.4 percent and R.J. Reynolds was up almost 2 percent in the first hours of trading the morning after the “victory” for tobacco opponents.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Boo-hoo, our government has reduced its efforts to loot an industry for selling a product that people WANT to buy!

    Anyone who didn’t know damned good and well the risks of tobacco by the seventies was best eliminated from the gene pool ASAP…it’s a shame tobacco can take so many decades to kill, in those cases where it has any effect at all.

    Tobacco companies have been FORCED to deny that their product is addictive and carcinogenic, because either of those truths would have made them into a “drug”, a category in which our government violates our freedom of choice without the slightest thought to our natural rights.

    Add to this the simple fact that it’s the anti-tobacco brigade’s imposition of age limits which MAKES tobacco attractive to teens, because it makes smoking an official sign of adulthood, and you have a prime case of inductive authoritarian nonsense causing far more harm than good.


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  2. As I said, it was more or less illegal for the tobacco companies to admit their products were either addictive or unhealthy, because then the federal government would have used this as an excuse to more or less nationalize tobacco through the heavy regulatory burden placed on prescription drugs, eventually leading up to a complete prohibition.

  3. You know, I’m pretty conservative in most of my politics, but I absolutely believe in the disclosure model.

    People “WANT” to buy cigarettes because nicotine is highly addictive. I’d be perfectly happy to find a ruling envorce advertising rules that required a notice to that effect at the beginning of every ad.

    “This product contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance which will compel you too buy and use this product even though the physical effects of inhaling combustion fumes is highly unpleasant and will eventually lead to your death.”

    After that, they can say anything they want without me feeling that their victims deserve any justice or recompense from the company. I’d of course feel compassion for the pain and suffering they brought on themselves by their poor choice, but it’d end there.

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