06 August 2005

No justice

I know this isn't new news, but it continues to bother me. This makes no sense:

"Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum Jr. said the government's penalty reduction came after it concluded it could seek funds to cover cessation programs only for people who become addicted to tobacco in the near future.

That was the result of an appeals court ruling that said the government could not legally force the tobacco industry to pay $280 billion for allegedly ill-gotten past profits from tobacco sales.
"

Forgive me if I use a little common sense, but isn't the idea that legal punishment relates to what's been done as opposed to what will transpire in the future?

This Doonesbury strip distills the reduced settlement to its essence. Fuckers.

6 comments :

  1. If I had to defend the logic behind this ruling, I'd say that the tobacco industry only has to pay for programs for people who become addicted in the near future because those people are becoming addicted right now. It's not the industry is being punished for a wrong in the near future and certainly not for wrongs done in the more distant past. The wrong is being commited today as new smokers become addicted; the result of this wrong will be seen in the near future.

    But in the end, I don't know. Haven't really kept up on this issue, and personally the more cynical perspective that the tobacco industry just needs to be kept happy (which in turn keeps the politicians happy) makes more sense, regardless of legal logic.

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  2. If preventing new addiction is the argument, is the government hoping to end up with a bunch of casual smokers who won't become addicted with this approach? Getting rid of cigarettes would be the most effective way to meet that goal. (No, I'm not saying tobacco should be outlawed though I do appreciate non-smoking environments.)

    I haven't read the transcripts from the case (which I can't find, btw), but I was under the impression part of the argument was Big Tobacco perpetrating a fraud by denying nicotine is addictive for decades leading to many deaths and many people currently addicted (from past use).

    Aside from that though, cigarettes will continue to be addictive, so will the gov't have to replay this case every few years to get money for prevention for the latest crop of addicted smokers?

    To me, it just looks like the politicians seized an out to reduce the penalty, so the tobacco industry can remain profitable.

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  3. so will the gov't have to replay this case every few years to get money for prevention for the latest crop of addicted smokers?

    Just to play devil's advocate, let's say no. In theory, after 20 some years of warnings on cigarette packs and all of this litigation that has made the public aware of how bad smoking is for your health, the gov't and big tobacco might be able to say, "Okay, now this time you really did know the risks, and you're going to have to take responsibility for the problems associated with smoking."

    it just looks like the politicians seized an out to reduce the penalty, so the tobacco industry can remain profitable.

    Absolutely.

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  4. Right. Because the legal problem isn't that tobacco is addictive and contributes to life-threatening illnesses, it's whether consumers were misled about those facts.

    after 20 some years of warnings on cigarette packs

    I'm not sure how your first argument works at all considering that. I've read that the money is supposed to help 45 million Americans stop smoking- that makes me think currently addicted smokers. Strange.

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  5. I'm not sure how your first argument works at all considering that.

    I like my arguments to include numbers, whether they're relevant or not! ;-)

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  6. I know what you mean. Responding to your comments is just helping me think it through more, so thanks.

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