Veteran Tallahassee lobbyists had seen nothing like it.
Big Tobacco hired 100 lobbyists, including some of the most influential lobbyists in the State of Florida, attempt to pass a bill that would absolve Big Tobacco of punitive damages liability for its lies and deceit, intentional and outrageous conduct that took the lives of 20 million Americans since 1964. Big Tobacco actually proposed legislation that would prohibit it from being punished for causing more than one death.
It’s been called the greatest crime in human history. Big Tobacco knew cigarettes caused cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other deadly diseases, and they lied to the public about it. Big Tobacco knew that nicotine in cigarettes was addictive, and they lied about that, too. And they add things to cigarettes to try increasing the addictive effect of nicotine, all while publicly claiming that smoking is a “choice” that people can simply quit doing when they choose to do so. Meanwhile, internally within the companies, they recognized that cigarette smoking was an addiction that most smokers cannot give up even if they want to. Big Tobacco celebrated that, while knowing that nicotine addiction would lead to millions and millions of Americans suffering and dying from very serious diseases. Big Tobacco didn’t care 30, 40 and 50 years ago, and Big Tobacco doesn’t care today.
Big Tobacco is a wealthy, unapologetic killer of Americans who wants to avoid accountability for its actions. But the public would be outraged if we adopted a policy that a killer could only be accountable for one killing, even if they were responsible for killing many people over many years. We would be even more outraged if the killer hired lobbyists to pass a law to bail him out AFTER he was held accountable. But that’s exactly what Big Tobacco sought to do in the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions, and is expected to try again in 2016. Because Big Tobacco is unapologetic about what they did.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wisely reflected that,
“The Founders realized that there has to be someplace where being right is more important than being popular or powerful, and where fairness trumps strength. And in our country that place is supposed to be the courtroom.” Fairness and accountability is the cornerstone of our civil justice system.
Big Tobacco deserves to take its medicine.