Monday, July 7, 1997

Week of 07/07/1997

The Bully-Payment
Something is intrinsically wrong with this tobacco deal…
- by David Matthews 2

You know, life wasn’t all hunky-dory when I grew up. Matter of fact, there were a few guys who seemed to make it their mission in life to ruin mine. They were rather annoying people who would kick my school books out of my hands, hurl small objects at my head, trip me up, and otherwise find any and all faults and then make sure everyone knew about them. And no matter what I tried to do, there was no stopping these guys.

Lately I’ve been thinking I should go back up to Connecticut and New Hampshire, track down my former bullies and say "You ruined my life! You owe me money!" And when they didn’t give me huge sums of money, I’d threaten to sue them for every cent they had. And I figure I wasn’t the only one who was tormented by these guys, so it would probably be a good idea to get hold of some other former classmates who were victims and get them signed on to these lawsuits as well. It’s always wonderful to have strengths in numbers, isn’t it? Of course, I won’t have to show who in particular ruined my life, I’ll just sue them all for doing that. And I won’t show HOW they ruined my life. I’ll just bring up statistics that showed the probability of how their actions resulted in ruining my life. After a few of those class-action lawsuits were filed, I’m sure these former tyrants of the school yard would be all too willing to settle out of court for the vast sums of money that I’d demand.

Doesn’t that sound ridiculous?

Well believe it or not, that’s my impression of these so-called "tobacco talks." Essentially we have the Attorneys General of a few-dozen states going to tobacco companies and saying "You ruined these peoples’ lives! You owe us money!"

Oh sure, there are some subtle differences. After all, we’re talking about people who have engaged in smoking cigarettes for decades.. even after thirty years of warnings that smoking causes all sorts of health problems. I’m waiting for the latest study that says if you smoke, you and everyone around you will DIE! Can we get yet ANOTHER study out leading to the exact same conclusion? I’m not doubting the studies that say smoking cigarettes causes all these health problems, but I think it’s interesting that there are all sorts of studies about cigarettes and zip about cigars and pipes. Same drug, is it not? Comes from the same kind of plant, right?

Of course, nobody ever talk about BANNING such a dangerous substance. Sure, 48 states and the federal government ban the use of marijuana (only 2 states allow the medicinal use of it), despite claims of medical benefits of it’s use. Of course, you hear very little about the effects of second-hand pot smoke. Or for that matter any hazardous effects of second hand smoke from ANYTHING other than from cigarettes.

While we’re at it, if the tobacco companies are so evil, why are we continuing to provide subsidies for tobacco farmers? Isn’t that like providing subsidies for marijuana growers?

Let’s be brutally honest here. This is nothing more than a money grab by states who want to make a quick buck at the expense of the tobacco industry. A recent article in Forbes magazine identified that all the lawyers involved in these talks are the same hired guns who sued Dow Corning for breast implants, and who also sued the asbestos companies. In fact, these are the highest paid lawyers in the country, and they make their money by taking big corporations to court in class-action suits and then settling big! And we’re talking about the Donald Trump Lotto To End All Lotto of settlements here, measured in the billions of dollars! And guess how much of that settlement these hired guns will be getting as attorneys fees? Try at least a THIRD!

Of course, the tobacco companies are eager to settle, since they made sure that part of the deal meant NO MORE LAWSUITS! Besides, the focus of these suits have been on cigarettes, not on tobacco in general. And it won’t harm their lucrative foreign sales, which are on the increase.

I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, nor have I ever WANTED to, even though I have been at times surrounded by family and acquaintances who have smoked like chimneys. Yet it burns me up to see so many moralists and neo-puritans decide to pass judgment on smokers. If the information about the number of smokers is accurate, we’re talking about harping on a substance that not only affecting just 25% of the populace now, but on a populace that has been on a steady decline! There are more than twice the number of non-smokers today than smokers!

Of course all that is irrelevant to the issue. According to these states, this whole issue isn’t about the decline of smokers. No, not at all. This is about "PROTECTING CHILDREN!" Once again the moralists have hid behind babies in order to shovel their morals down the throats of smokers with impunity. They want to "protect" children from yet another "evil industry." How? By killing off fictional characters like Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man. Isn’t that nice? Saving our kids from fictional characters! Besides, I thought it was already ILLEGAL for kids to smoke anyways. Whatever happened to those laws?

The hypocrisy of this is staggering. We have a LEGAL substance being treated like it was an ILLEGAL substance. We have a Vice President who in 1988 was pandering to the tobacco farmers, and eight years later was smiting them. By the way Mister Gore, how’s the family tobacco farm?

The worst part about this whole affair is that it’s setting some really dangerous precedents here. First cigarettes are heavily regulated because of the dangers involved and to "protect children." What will be next? Well you know beer commercials will be next, because heaven forbid we can’t have commercials showing young adults having fun and linking that to alcohol. But they’re already heavily regulated, so the Pleasure Police really can’t cause too much public havoc over that issue. You know, all that junk food really isn’t good for children either. Why not ban the advertisement of junk food and sue the "evil junk food industry" for endangering children? After all we’re not talking about banning the substance, just banning the advertisement of it. Don’t laugh, because there are some people who are actually thinking about doing just that!

Look, we need to slap the Pleasure Police down hard with a good, healthy dose of reality here. Substances that are legal to obtain should be equally legal to advertise, even if it’s a substance you may not like, and even if it’s a substance that may not be healthy for you. Adults are going to get wasted, get drunk, strung out, or smoke something that might foul up their lives in the future. It’s been that way since the dawn of time. As long as they ARE adults and they know what to expect when they do it, we need to keep our distance and let them decide for themselves how to live their lives. That is what being an adult is after all.

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