The existence of the huge tobacco settlements has seemed to make a lot of people happy, as though the problem has been solved and settled. It is definitely not! Quite the contrary! As I suggested in my earlier warning essays of 1993-1998, the receipt of such large "windfalls" by each of the state governments has gotten them all very "comfortable" with receiving these moneys.
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If you think about this a little, you can see that the tobacco settlements have made our Federal and state governments effectively "partners" of big tobacco. There is clearly no way that any of those governments are going to aggressively pursue big tobacco during the 25 years of payments of the settlement amounts.
This means that our various governments are NOT going do much about the millions of people who will die as a result of the cigarettes that will be manufactured during this next 25 years. This is clearly wrong! Something should be done to ensure the rights of those future smokers.
It does not appear that there are many ways this could be done. With the governments so happy to receive their "shares" of the settlement windfalls, they have effectively put themselves "in the pockets" of big tobacco. Does anyone else get really scared about this situation?
The most viable possibility might be to file a class-action lawsuit against each of the state governments! Good lawyers should be able to establish a solid case for collusion between big tobacco and the individual state governments.
This is not to say that big tobacco should not have to pay some sort of punishment for their past, present and future sins. They certainly should. But the way the tobacco settlements were arranged has a flaw built into them. Rather than any actual punishment such as giving up assets that were accumulated from the sale of past cigarette sales, the settlements actually ensure that they will be able to keep all those assets and merrily produce all the cigarettes they can, for many years into the future.
Related to this, please note that the US Government seizes all vehicles, homes, and other assets of drug dealers, because those assets are considered to be the "prizes" of the selling of the drugs. Doesn't it seem more appropriate that the big tobacco companies should have instead been required to divest themselves of the many companies and assets they bought with the "dirty" tobacco money?
The intent of the tobacco settlements of a couple years ago was wonderful. It was amazing that lawyers were finally able to prove culpability of big tobacco for medical consequences of their products. But if the result is essentially support for their future activities and no loss of their assets from past sins, it seems that there is still something seriously wrong. Since it seems unlikely that lawyers would be able to re-prosecute the tobacco companies regarding these matters, the suggestion of instituting a class-action lawsuit against each of the state governments seems like the only available course of action. Possibly, perceptive people might find better or other methods of confronting this remaining terrible aspect of the business of tobacco.
Above all, we should keep in mind the pain, suffering and death that will certainly result in future smokers, that will occur directly as a result of big tobacco's guaranteed situation of profitability during the next 25 years. Whether or not we can find a way to correct this situation, we should all feel the responsibility of it, and not forget the actual underlying cause of those future deaths.
C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago