Tobacco Escapes Huge Penalty

The Justice Department yesterday dropped its demand that the tobacco companies pay $130 billion for smoking cessation programs to a much more modest $10 billion over the next five years.

Tobacco Escapes Huge Penalty (WaPo, A1)

After eight months of courtroom argument, Justice Department lawyers abruptly upset a landmark civil racketeering case against the tobacco industry yesterday by asking for less than 8 percent of the expected penalty. As he concluded closing arguments in the six-year-old lawsuit, Justice Department lawyer Stephen D. Brody shocked tobacco company representatives and anti-tobacco activists by announcing that the government will not seek the $130 billion that a government expert had testified was necessary to fund smoking-cessation programs. Instead, Brody said, the Justice Department will ask tobacco companies to pay $10 billion over five years to help millions of Americans quit smoking.

[…]

“It feels like a political decision to take into consideration the tobacco companies’ financial interest rather than health interests of 45 million addicted smokers,” said William V. Corr, director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The government proved its case, but the levels of funding are a shadow of the cessation treatment program that the government’s own expert witness recommended.”

[…]

William B. Schultz, a former Justice Department official who oversaw the lawsuit under the Clinton administration, said that “it’s disappointing, to say the least, that at the final stages of this litigation they have pulled their punches in such a significant way. This is the loss of a significant opportunity to advance public health. Smoking is the number one preventable disease. It kills 400,000 people a year.” Lead government attorney Sharon Eubanks had summed up the trial early yesterday, saying the government had proved the industry engaged in a “decades-long pattern of . . . misrepresentations, half-truths, deceptions and lies that continue to this day.”

While it’s difficult to feel much sympathy for the tobacco companies, the argument that these lawsuits are having any effect on public health is absurd. The payouts have mostly been expropriated for general revenues at the state level, with much less than the agreed upon amounts going to cessation programs and tobacco related health issues.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Health, Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Fersboo says:

    If smokin’ is so frickin’ bad, just ban the growing of tobacco. At least then I would have some common cause with the pot-heads.

    BTW, I like the new comment features, pretty cool.

  2. Taylor says:

    See, it’s tough for me. Because I would argue that the $200+ billion would have gone a long way toward public education…

  3. Fersboo says:

    See, it’s tough for me. Because I would argue that the $200+ billion would have gone a long way toward public education…

    Education for what? Smoking is bad for you? How about educating people so they can think for themselves and use common sense, instead of bad-mouthing stuff that some do not enjoy. Smoking isn’t bad for you if you understand moderation. Eating fatty foods isn’t bad for you, in moderation. Drinking adult beverages isn’t bad for you, again, in moderation. Religion isn’t bad for you, in moderation. Being a tree-hugging, Earth-mother-worshipping, idiot isn’t bad for you, unless you think that grizzly bears are cute and cuddely and you try to co-exist with them by feeding them and living in the wild with them, then they tear both of your arms off and maul your chest and face and……..in moderation.

  4. Greg says:

    Smoking is the number one preventable disease. It kills 400,000 people a year

    Smoking is not a disease, its a habit.
    And, I would venture to say, preventing the common cold is probably easier then breaking the habit.

  5. odograph says:

    My political position would be to reduce the flow of monies to the general funds … but that pales in the face of the deficits we are all running(*).

    Given the need to dig ourselves out, sure stick it to all the villains.

    * – if you are in a state with a surplus, good on ya!

  6. herb says:

    I guess some people will never get it. The tobacco lawsuits and the entire tobacco anti smoking campaigns are nothing more than a money tree for lawyers and politicans. Thke the money away and the whole tobacco thing will disappear entirely.

  7. wavemaker says:

    WAY TO GO HERB!! Abso-bleepin-lootely. Anti-tobacco advocacy is now a profession — professional experts, specialist attorneys, PR and advertising agencies — all sucking off the grave train of the “settlement.”

  8. mike says:

    The book “Smokescreen” was a good beach read – I think it was by Kyle Mills – story is about how tobacco companies just say “fuck it we won’t sell in the US’ any more since we make enough overseas and this forces everyone to the table to quit suing tobacco companies for doing what people want them to do: sell cigarettes – fun read although maybe not so realistic.

  9. Robert says:

    “I guess some people will never get it. The tobacco lawsuits and the entire tobacco anti smoking campaigns are nothing more than a money tree for lawyers and politicans. Thke the money away and the whole tobacco thing will disappear entirely”.

    Can you say, “War on Drugs”?