Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Lawsuits Threaten Big Tobacco, Common Sense

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2008 at 7:03 AM

click to enlarge serious-smoking-habit.jpg

He really, really wanted that Joe Camel bomber.

A quick SAT analogy. Putty is to a sculptor as _______ is to a trial lawyer.

If you answered logic, congratulations.You may be as enraged by this latest bit of litigation as we are.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court split 5-4 in favor of three smokers from Maine, allowing them the right to sue tobacco companies for fraud. Because cancer sticks made them sick? No, that grounds been fairly well trampled. The trio, with what we can imagine is a healthy dose of guidance from a man in an expensively tailored suit, are suing Big Tobacco because they overcharged them for light cigarettes.

The logic goes like this: a pack of Marlboro Lights is advertised as being safer because it registers lower levels of tar. But the poor saps who buy a pack don't want to nibble on arugula. They want to be transported to Flavor Country. And that forces them to, no lie, puff harder, inhale deeper and smoke more.

Maybe I'm the wrong person to make this argument. Not being a smoker, I can't tell you the difference between light and hard packs. But I'd like to think my abstinence doesn't preclude me from having an informed opinion about what, from the outside looking in, seems like a whole bunch of hot air...

Advertising is deceptive by nature. Look at GM. If they admitted the truth--that they're an aging dinosaur on the brink of extinction--no one would take a test drive. But by coyly alluding that their new Cadillac CTS has enough torque to get you off, they just might sell a few sedans.

Tobacco companies are the masters of this shell game. They've been doing it for so long there's an entire catalogue of old cigarette ads on YouTube that have reached epic levels of unintentional self-parody. A popular kids cartoon hawking Winstons? Yabba-dabba-doo!




At this point, it'd be hard to imagine any (legal-aged) smoker not being fully aware of the dangers presented by lighting up. To paraphrase Russel Crowe's whistleblower in The Insider, cigarettes are a nicotine delivery device. They're full of toxins. Bad shit.

That we should have gotten to this point, where someone can make a successful Supreme Court argument that they were coerced into puffing harder, is a testament to just how far the pendulum of public opnion has swung. But instead of wasting energy on pointing out the enemy we've already tarred-and-feathered, let's save our outrage for the people who really deserve it: Those who wish to convince us their argument makes a lick of sense.

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