Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Six million dollars is a lot of money. Six hundred million dollars is a lot more money. That's lottery type money. Super Lotto type money. Powerball type money. Now go ahead and drop twenty-three billion dollars on top of that. Twenty-three billion and six hundred million. Dollars. Now we're talking about government type money. That's the kind of money a Florida jury wants R.J. Reynolds to pay in damages to the widow of a longtime smoker who died in 1996. Cynthia Robinson received this award in addition to the sixteen million dollars she received in compensatory damages. On that scale, that might seem like chump change, but it isn't. It's part of a much bigger picture.
Ms. Robinson is the first in a series of individual lawsuits brought against big tobacco after a class action suit for one hundred forty-five billion dollars was tossed out by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006. So now, instead of one trial for a hundred billion dollars, there are thousands of individuals lined up for the opportunity to get themselves a chunk of change. In order to participate, one need only prove addiction and that smoking caused the illness or death.
Some things that may need to be mentioned here: As late as 1994, R.J. Reynolds' CEO testified under oath in front of Congress that he didn't believe tobacco was addictive. Even now, their web site insists that "Nicotine in tobacco products is addictive but is not considered a significant threat to health." That comes right after the assertion that "Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States." So, follow their logic: Nicotine, which is found in cigarettes, is not a threat to health, even though it is found in cigarettes which are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It's the same brain trust that had to fork over fifteen million dollars in fines for handing out cigarettes at events attended by children.
And now, just a little more math: The average price per pack of cigarettes is five dollars. A pack-a-day habit will run you about eighteen hundred dollars a year. There's forty-two million of you, so all of a sudden the numbers start to add up. Billions of dollars are out there to be had, and if you really want to get a piece of that action, just get yourself addicted and if you can afford those chest x-rays, you're on the fast track to big money! Good luck with that.

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