Monday, July 17, 2000

Week of 07/17/2000

Target: Litigious Smokers
- by David Matthews 2

You know, I just have to give credit where credit is due.. those lawsuit-happy smokers out there have finally managed to pull one off.

It took years of legal action, bringing in dozens of lawsuits. That had to have been a strain for many of the long-term smokers.. the ones who have health problems.. because of all of the steps they had to climb to get to the courthouse buildings.

Of course, many of the litigious smokers didn’t make it to trial. Some died in the process, forcing their spouses and family members to carry on with their fight.

But after all of this time, and all of that money spent, those litigious smokers finally got to put the hurt to the infamous "Big Tobacco" with a whopping $145 BILLION judgement.

Allow me to repeat that for you… one hundred and forty-five BILLION dollars! That’s BILLION with a "B". A nice, fat, Pentagon-sized TWELVE-digit figure.

Of course, the anti-smoking activists would say that it was just desserts. After all, they blame "Big Tobacco" for killing millions of people.

Don’t forget that we’re talking about a huge class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of "sick smokers" in Florida. How many precisely has yet to be determined. The wire services put their range anywhere between 300,000 and 700,000. Still, that’s quite a bit of cash for each of these litigious smokers. Anywhere between $483 and $207 thousand dollars for each litigant, depending on when the lawyers can agree on the exact number of plaintiffs involved. Maybe some of those "sick smokers" aren’t really sick. Maybe a few hundred of those 700,000 smokers woke up one morning with hangovers and decided to blame the tobacco companies anyways. Lord knows those diligent personal-injury lawyers don’t want to penalize the tobacco companies needlessly, right?

Speaking of lawyers, you know the attorneys in this case will only want what they deem to be "their fair share" of those damages. After all, they had to do all of the legwork in these lawsuits. They had to visit hospitals with some of those "sick smokers" and hear endlessly about how badly they are, and how much money they owe to doctors and hospitals for their misery. Then they had to endure the endless misery of sitting in posh conference rooms with other attorneys who represented the tobacco companies, talking about those sick smokers while deciding which five-star restaurant they want to dine at afterwards, and which golf course they want to visit for a few friendly rounds before going back to those posh conference rooms. Oh, those lawyers live tough lives! So they would be completely justified in claiming, say, one hundred billion of that whopping jackpot. After all, they still have to put up with those appeals, right?

But, you know, I gotta be brutally honest with you litigious smokers… the argument your lawyers used to win the case in Florida is absolutely masterful! A pure stroke of genius!

I mean, come on, you litigious smokers can be honest with the rest of the world on this. It’s not like this is some kind of government secret. What is it exactly that you guys are arguing? That you were so influenced by magazine advertising and billboards to take up a habit that was suspected for at least forty years to have caused health problems. It’s not your fault.. it’s the fault of that evil arch-villain Joe Camel for making smoking look cool. You were influenced… no, compelled… no, coerced.. no, FORCED to start smoking. Not with a gun or a knife, or even blackmail photos of you having your first bath when you were a baby. No, those damned advertising slaves of Big Tobacco forced you to smoke with the most insidious weapon at their disposal.. they TOLD you to!

Essentially, you smokers were arguing that you are idiots who cannot think for yourselves.

That took guts! I mean, most people would be reluctant to admit that they have no minds of their own. We often go out of our way to say we have some modicum of intelligence and free will.. but not you litigious smokers! You get up there with your lawyers and you say "We started smoking because we have no free will.. *GASP* .. and because we are idiots.. *GASP* ..and will do whatever advertisers tell us to do… *WHEEZ*"

And that message wasn’t even an easy sell! It took twenty years worth of lawsuits and millions of dollars spent to attorneys before people could even believe that you smokers were mindless idiots. I mean, the legal system had an extremely hard time believing that people could be that mindless. They foolishly thought that you smokers consciously took up the habit. Oh those naïve justices! What were they thinking?

Those tobacco executives also helped you guys out by concealing a few facts and figures. Apparently they’ve known for years just how mindless you guys were, and took complete advantage off of it. Shame on those rich executives for making a buck off of your mindlessness! Who do those people think they are? The federal government?

And while we’re at it, shame on all of us non-smokers out there who managed to somehow defy the will of the tobacco companies and their advertising lackeys -- not to mention peer pressure -- and never take up smoking. And shame, shame, shame on all of those people who did take up smoking and then quit. People like my parents, who made the conscious effort to quit smoking without those gums or patches or expensive addition programs. Those are the very people who created the illusion that smoking was a voluntary activity that made it so hard for you people to get any satisfaction in the courts.

So now the question is what will you litigious smokers do now? If the verdict is upheld by the judge, and survives the endless appeals process without being reduced, you will have essentially driven those tobacco companies out of business. That means nobody will be able to pay the tobacco farmers for their crops. Vice President Al Gore, who wept oh so conveniently for his dead sister, won’t have a family tobacco farm to brag about. There won’t be any tobacco advertising to tell you what to do.

Matter of fact, without the tobacco companies, you probably won’t even have any cigarettes… unless they come from some third world country and are charged to the hilt for them. Well, at least you would still be able to afford them with your settlement money.

But.. hey, like your health, that kind of worry is best left for tomorrow. You just won a huge legal victory today! You should celebrate! Smoke ‘em, if you got them!

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