In Ontario, Canada, Big Tobacco is currently under attack. Ontario claims that, among other things, Big Tobacco misrepresented the dangers of smoking and the addictiveness of nicotine to the public for decades. Ontario also claims that Big Tobacco caused or contributed to an additional $50 billion in health care costs.
Sounding familiar? No one should be surprised that Big Tobacco has felt at liberty to conduct themselves in other countries as they have in the United States. In fact, the findings in Ontario sound very much like the findings by courts and juries across Florida and in other parts of this country:
- Manufacturing, selling and promoting the sale of cigarettes while knowing that cigarettes are addictive, cause serious diseases and that second hand smoke also causes diseases;
- Manipulating the level of nicotine in cigarettes;
- Suppressing information, scientific information and medical data about the risks of smoking and of second hand smoke;
- Misrepresenting to the public and government that filters reduce the risks of smoking and that “light” cigarettes were safer than other cigarettes;
- Misrepresenting that the defendants were aware of no credible research establishing a link between smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke to disease;
- Failing to adequately warn the public that cigarettes are addictive and cause disease;
- Promotional activities with the primary intent to neutralize the effectiveness of the warnings on cigarette packaging;
- Targeting children and adolescents in advertising, promotional and marketing activities for the purpose of inducing them to start or continue to smoke.
- Orchestrate public relations programs with the objects of promoting cigarettes, protecting cigarettes from attack based on health risks and reassuring the public that smoking was not hazardous.
My guess is that the tone of arguments will become increasingly severe as our brethren to the north continue their review of the documents generated by the tobacco industry in previous litigation.
In the United States, one judge who has been perhaps the most exposed to the tobacco documents is United States District Court Judge Gladys Kessler. Judge Kessler has issued a few scathing findings against the tobacco companies and disclosed startling information she found in her review of evidence presented to her.
Her findings and comments have included:
“The evidence spelled out above is simply overwhelming that Defendants knew that smoking is addictive and knew that nicotine is the agent creating and sustaining that addiction. There is also overwhelming evidence that even though Defendants have known internally about addiction for decades, they have endeavored to keep the extensive research and data they had accumulated out of the public domain and out of the hands of the public health community by denying that such data existed, by refusing to disclose it, and by shutting down or censoring laboratories and research projects which were investigating the mechanisms of nicotine.
If, in fact, “everybody knew” that smoking and nicotine were addictive, then why were Defendants publicly, vehemently, and repeatedly denying it?
In short, after reassuring the smoker that smoking was not bad for her health, and was not addictive, Defendants then blamed her for being unable to stop using the product they had so successfully marketed with false information.
Based on the extensive individual Findings of Fact set forth in this Section, the Court finds that Defendants have known for decades that cigarette smoking was addictive, and that nicotine is the addicting element in smoking behavior. Defendants’ false and misleading statements relating to addiction continue even today.
Moreover, Defendants deliberately and intentionally hid this information from the public and closed down research laboratories and on-going projects in order to ensure secrecy. Time and time again, Defendants falsely denied these facts to smokers and potential smokers, to government regulatory authorities, to the public health community and to the American public.”
Our own Florida Supreme Court has found:
- That cigarettes cause a whole bunch of diseases, including: aortic aneurysm, bladder cancer, cerebrovascular disease, cervical cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer (specifically, adenocarinoma, large cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma), complications of pregnancy, oral cavity/tongue cancer, pancreatic cancer, peripheral vascular disease, pharyngeal cancer, and stomach cancer).
- That cigarettes are addictive.
- That the Tobacco Companies knowingly marketed cigarettes that were defective and unreasonably dangerous.
- That the Tobacco Companies concealed or failed to disclose important information about cigarettes that was not able to be known by the public.
- That Tobacco Companies misled the public about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.
- That the Tobacco Companies, acting together, concealed information regarding the negative health effects of cigarettes.
- That the Tobacco Companies, acting together, concealed the addictive nature of nicotine in cigarettes.
- That the Cigarette Companies sold products that were defective.
- That all the Tobacco Companies were negligent.
Nine different judges. Three different parts of North America. It seems time to believe that the tobacco industry has been lying and deceiving people all over the world about the dangers of cigarettes. The deception started in the early 20th century while Big Tobacco was literally handing out cigarettes on street corners.
Of course, when tobacco needs to defend itself in court, they like to argue that “everybody” knew about how addictive and dangerous cigarettes were by the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Yet, as late as 1994, the CEO’s of all the Big Tobacco companies swore under oath that cigarettes were not dangerous and nicotine was not addictive: