5 Lies the Tobacco Companies Legally Have to Take Back
Cigarette companies, knowing the health consequences, made their products as addictive as possible and lied about the whole thing. They did this consciously and on purpose.
Ho hum, you think? We already knew this? That may be, but the companies still haven’t admitted it. Riding to the rescue is federal judge Gladys Kessler, and she is armed and ready for these bastards.
A little background: in 1999, the federal government sued the tobacco companies for a wide array of dastardly deeds. I was Judge Kessler’s law clerk at the time (my characterizations here have not been shared with her and are not associated with her in any way) and had the pleasure of sorting through the first of 13 years’ worth (and counting) of briefs, evidence and other documents unloaded on the Judge’s chambers.
She has emerged from the paper deluge holding high a truncheon with which to smack the crap out of the tobacco companies. Her latest opinion, issued in November, is just plain fun to read for anyone who thinks it is time for the wrongdoers to own up.
Judge Kessler addresses five subjects the companies lied about, listed here in the court’s words:
1. the adverse health effects of smoking
2. the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine
3. the lack of any significant health benefit from smoking “low tar,” “light,” “ultralight,” “mild,” and “natural” cigarettes
4. [the cigarette makers'] manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery
5. the adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke.
That right there is a mouthful of lies, and the Court is ticked off accordingly. So the Judge ordered the companies to make the following statements about the first subject alone:
A Federal Court has ruled that the Defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking, and has ordered those companies to make this statement. Here is the truth:
- Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.
- More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.
- Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia, and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder and pancreas.
- Smoking also causes reduced fertility, low birth weight in newborns, and cancer of the cervix and uterus.
Bet you didn’t know all of that. Cancer of the cervix and uterus is a new one on me. But my favorite phrase is “Here is the truth.” This is the equivalent of locking the mendacious CEOs into the public stocks in the town square, hanging out for all to see. Or airbrushing big red “L”s for “Liars” on their fancy suits.
Now cigarette manufacturers have already had to pay money in a settlement with a group of states. But they have never been forced to say “we lied; here is the truth.” Even when Congress tried to get them to be straight with us, the CEOs (the “C” stands for “Coward”) just lied lied lied, testifying under oath that they believed nicotine was not addictive.
We have the Clinton administration and its successors to thank for the current lawsuit: the federal government brought it and has prosecuted it lo these many years. Many legal twists and turns have transpired in the meantime, and there will probably be many more. Judge Kessler’s order is subject to appeal, so this delicious public humiliation of the cigarette makers may never come to pass. That would be one more sad injustice in the sordid history of a parasitic industry.
Photo credit: Hemera