Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 11, 2009


Morton Mintz, Neiman Watchdog - The Washington Legal Foundation, a self-described "advocate for freedom and justice," published one of its occasional quarter-page ads in the New York Times the other day. The headline: "Bull Market for Plaintiffs’ Lawyers."

"At least one industry - Litigation, Inc. - is expanding at a fast pace," the group's chairman, Daniel J. Popeo, declared in the May 4 op-ed ad. He characterized this newly-invented industry as a "parasitic," "unregulated," "multi-billion-dollar" business in "pursuit of riches [that] restrains U.S. economic recovery."

The ad appeared under a logo, "IN ALL FAIRNESS". But fairness to those who read Popeo's rant requires some background. I have in mind the long-standing ties that he somehow overlooked between WLF and the tobacco industry.

Smoking kills about 400,000 Americans annually. The World Health Organization warned last year that 1 billion people worldwide could die of tobacco-related causes this century unless "urgent action" is taken.

It is thanks primarily to plaintiffs' lawyers who sued tobacco companies that damning, truth-telling internal documents that would otherwise have remained secret if not destroyed have surfaced in recent decades. The documents prove, among other things, that cigarette manufacturers:

- Designed ads and promotions to lure vulnerable children and adolescents into becoming smokers, thus addicting and dooming millions of them to premature death. For example, youngsters saw glamorous movie stars smoking; what they did not see was industry product-placement money changing hands in Hollywood to make this happen. . .

- Spent billions of dollars on multi-media ads proclaiming the pleasures of smoking but never mentioning the hazards-not even hazards reported to them by their own scientists. Here's a standard definition of criminal negligence: "acting without reasonable caution and putting another person at risk of injury or death (or failing to do something with the same consequences.)"

- Stifled research. A 1968 Philip Morris draft memo, for example, revealed an industry-wide "gentleman's agreement" barring cigarette companies from doing in-house biological research on the health hazards of smoking. .


Anonymous robbie said...

Yeah well their prices have gone up 600% since they were "sued" so I'm guessing they're not hurting that badly.

May 11, 2009 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By arbitrarily attributing 400,000 deaths per year to cigarette smoking, the anti-tobacco lobby established a very convenient 'smokescreen' for all the other air-polluting industries. Most anti-tobacco case law has been based on the unsavory business ethics of the tobacco industry and rather poor demographic studies, not scientific proof of specific causes of so-called 'smoking-related' diseases. The ethics of the anti-smoking lobby would look very similar to those of the tobacco industry if subjected to the same level of scrutiny.

May 12, 2009 4:21 PM  

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