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Not Such a Merry Christmas for Tobacco


Big Tobacco receives two pieces of news that, well, is going to really not make for a merry Christmas this year.

Clearly a classic of “beware what you wish for my friend, for surely you shall receive it!”

Every time a jury finds against Big Tobacco, their talking heads come out with the boiler plate speech that they can not wait to get their cases appealed because, according to Big Tobacco, the trial courts are doing it wrong.

Well, Big Tobacco finally received their first answer in the higher courts; from the 1st District Court of Appeals in Florida; in the case of Martin v RJ Reynolds. Big Tobacco essentially argued that they were denied their day in court because the trial judge advised the jurors of a decision reached by the Florida Supreme Court in a decision called “Engle”.

The First District analyzed the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in the “Engle” cases and in their decision, they ratified certain conclusions reached by a jury who heard over a year of testimony and evidence relating to the conduct of the Tobacco Companies in selling cigarettes for the last century:

  • 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.

So, just to put it into a nutshell:

The Tobacco Companies lied to the American public about how seriously addictive nicotine in cigarettes was and they withheld information about the dangerous health effects of cigarettes from the public. Further, that Big Tobacco aggressively marketed a product that they knew would cause serious diseases and that was unreasonably dangerous. The Tobacco Companies made billions of dollars making the American public sick.

Does that sound “negligent” enough for even the most ardent corporate defenders and tort reformers? I can not imagine another industry that would have been permitted to get away with this type of conduct for nearly 100 years and do it without really having to pay any price. For most of those 100 years, the Tobacco Companies have been untouchable by plaintiffs and untouched by the government.

In another Court, US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler wrote a 1682 page opinion after hearing mountains of evidence concerning Big Tobacco’s conduct. In part, Judge Kessler set forth the following conclusions:

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.

As you can imagine, Judge Kessler’s analysis of the evidence goes on for some time in a 1682 page decision. But her analysis is simply a summation of the damning evidence that supports all of the findings made by the Florida Supreme Court in the “Engle” decision.

The Tobacco Companies now want to try and sell more half truths and misrepresentations to jurors who are hearing only a fraction of the available evidence against them. They want to complain that Florida judges simply do not understand and that it is they, Big Tobacco, who are really the victims. They want, once again, to go untouched for their decades and decades of deception.

Well, Big Tobacco finally has heard from a learned Court that Florida Judges do, in fact, know what they are doing; that the Florida Supreme Court knew what it was doing when it evaluated the evidence against Tobacco Companies; and the Tobacco Companies may finally be forced to suffer for their “fraudulent schemes”, misrepresentations, and their peddling of one of the most dangerous drugs conceived in American history.

The Tobacco Companies’ conduct will simply not stand up in the light of day, in a fair evaluation of their wrongdoing. Beware of what you wish for “Joe Camel”.

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