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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Widow of chain smoker awarded 23 billion in suit against RJ Reynolds (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Widow of chain smoker awarded 23 billion in suit against RJ Reynolds
Dogbreath
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Eh? Herbley was the one who made the false claim. (his "fun fact" which was not actually factual)
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Rakeesh
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This is what I get for posting on an hour and a half of sleep, I suppose. I literally looked back over my post and couobt remember clearly writing all of it, heh.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
This is stupid. There are risks associated with everything. Should we sue auto manufacturers for accidents? Should we sue McDonalds for obesity? Should we sue Cabellas for accidental deaths due to guns?

We do, in fact, sue auto manufacturers for accidents when they do things like intentionally conceal manufacturing defects that can cause fatal crashes in order to protect their bottom line.

And since RJR and co were part of a decades long literal conspiracy to attempt to conceal what they had plainly discovered for themselves (that cigarettes are astoundingly harmful to human health and are a ridiculously addictive drug) they're certainly in the category of this oh so hated Tort.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
Oh but Herblay, we can't rely on free market principles.

Cool! You said something true by accident. Every modernized nation on earth has one of those new-fangled health standards boards of some sort or another to this exact effect, and such regulation over business has proven its value a hundred score times over.

I guess it would be super awesome to go back to an era before Upton Sinclair when the free market was supposed to determine the quality of your foodstuffs for you and a few cases of fatal botulism here and there every week from meat cans with rusted nails and mouse turds in it was simply the invisible hand at work.

Related to the RJR thing and Upton Sinclair, as well, a Sinclair quote!

'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.'

quote:
MR. WYDEN. Let me begin my questioning on whether or not nicotine is addictive. Let me ask you first, and I'd like to just go down the row, whether each of you believes that nicotine is not addictive. I heard virtually all of you touch on it. Yes or no, do you believe nicotine is not addictive?

MR. CAMPBELL (President of Philip Morris U.S.A.).
I believe nicotine is not addictive, yes.

MR. WYDEN. Mr Johnston?

MR. JAMES JOHNSTON (Chairman and CEO of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company). Mr. Congressman, cigarettes and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definition of addiction. There is no intoxication.

MR. WYDEN. WeŽll take that as a "no." Again, time is short. I think that each of you believe that nicotine is not addictive. We would just like to have this for the record.

MR. TADDEO (President of U.S. Tobacco).
I donŽt believe that nicotine or our products are addictive.

MR. TISCH (Chairman and CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. HORRIGAN (Chairman and CEO of Liggett Group).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. SANDEFUR (Chairman and CEO of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. DONALD JOHNSTON (President and CEO of American Tobacco Company).
And I, too, believe that nicotine is not addictive.

1994.
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Rakeesh
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Gets tricky to nail them in the sort of hearing Herblay (claims) to want when they can just flat out lie and insist on being believed.
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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
And everyone in my family has diabetes. Can I blame McDonald's for causing it? Or can I blame them for their advertising?

http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4549.html

depends....did they add addictive substances to it for decades, knowing they were addictive and harmful, then lie about it and deliberately obscure the truth even to Congress?

Is what they sell harmful/deadly even in small quantities?

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BlackBlade
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Also, did McDonalds conduct research that showed that their food caused diabetes and then intentionally falsify the conclusions or destroy it knowing it was in their consumers' interest to know?
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CT
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
Another fun fact: more people die of alcohol than tobacco.

Herblay, this contradicts what I was taught. What's your source?

*interested

---
Edited to add: Read further, and whoops! Dogbreath is already there. [Smile]

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narrativium
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http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html

quote:
Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.
quote:
In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

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Herblay
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With 500 k cancer deaths each year (total), I'm a little skeptical. Look at the CDC fact sheet:
http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/

They're blaming cases of SIDS on tobacco? It's a risk factor, but so is being male. Or being Eskimo. We don't know what causes SIDS.

And more than 30 k heart disease deaths from secondhand smoke?

Doctor: What's the cause of death?
Nurse: Heart disease. How should we write it up, Doc?
Doctor: Did they live with a smoker?
Nurse: I can't see how that's relevant. Let me check. Yes. They did.
Doctor: Tobacco caused this death, Nurse. It was tobacco.

The data is culled in a manner that is being used to villainize tobacco. It is all of the deaths that could POSSIBLY be attributed to tobacco. And since lots of people use tobacco, it's easy to lay the blame there.

To look at the CDC's numbers another way, look at their TOTAL mortality stats:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm

They claim that the tobacco deaths are from cancer and heart disease. Looking at both number sets together, they are stating that half of all heart disease and cancer deaths are from tobacco.

I'm probably guilty of shooting from the hip because it's my personal belief that alcohol is more harmful to society, from domestic violence to vast array of other social problems. But I think that others are guilty of attributing tobacco to deaths where it isn't the direct cause. It may be a factor, but we have no idea how often it IS the cause of death (except lung cancer and emphysema cases).

The modern view is that obesity is a bigger health risk than tobacco. From that perspective, McDonalds is easily just as guilty as RJR, whether you want to talk about targeted advertising or denial of health risk.

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Rakeesh
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I would be thrilled if you were to, say, lecture someone such as CT, or just the CDC, that best of vipers, on the dishonest or negligent use of medical statistics in pursuit of an agenda.
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Herblay
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Everybody is pursuing an agenda, Rakeesh. It's just that some are fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of $23 B.

It sucks what happened to her. It sucks what's happened to a lot of smokers and the families of smokers. And if people get layed off because a judge wanted to make a political statement, well that sucks too.

<shrug>

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Samprimary
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The point of Rakeesh's post is that you have plainly demonstrated a negligent understanding and representation of facts and statistics about the harm of tobacco use. Not everyone's pursuit of an agenda is equal in terms of how much pre-existing bias causes someone to be totally, completely, flat wrong about statistics, as you were.
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Herblay
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I stated that alcohol caused more deaths. I was wrong. I iterated that the statistics about tobacco related deaths were biased, which they are.

So?

They're both harmful. But what pertinence does this have on the topic?

I'll restate my points, which I've never deviated from:
- Tobacco is harmful, but we've known that for years.
- It's a natural product. RJR is merely a manufacturer of a plant product.
- If they did something wrong, they should be tried once and have damages distributed to people hurt by it.
- If they didn't do something wrong, I think that civil / tort law unfairly punishes the company, again and again, by judges who want to make political statements.
- I also think that we're doing this to discourage tobacco use. I don't think it works. And I think suits like this damage the economy (my economic comments). They raise prices on smokers, most of whom are poor. From an economic perspective, the ramifications of this are huge.
- I was wrong about tobacco versus alcohol statistics. I have nothing more to say on the matter, other than that I believe the statistics are biased and that I believe alcohol causes more harm to society for multiple reasons (domestic violence, jobs, accidents, health).

<shrug> I'm done digging into the weeds, so to speak. People just want to pick at my zits rather than have a decent conversation about it.

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TomDavidson
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Do you smoke, Herblay? Stop, if so.
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Rakeesh
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Herblay,

quote:
I stated that alcohol caused more deaths. I was wrong. I iterated that the statistics about tobacco related deaths were biased, which they are.
That's not actually what you did. They might very well be, in fact, but you didn't even make a simple statement-you used a straw man to do it.

quote:
They're both harmful. But what pertinence does this have on the topic?
The topic being, partially, tobacco is unfairly villainized, see deaths due to alcohol? You brought it up.

quote:
Tobacco is harmful, but we've known that for years.
How much we've known this, when, and to what extent there was a conspiracy and a coverup by tobacco companies to conceal this is actually the subject that's well understood and has been referenced here more than once. By the reasoning you're using, were McDonald's to suddenly start using 15% more salt and then never tell anyone, it would be trivial, because everyone knew Big Macs were bad. In the case of tobacco of course, it's significantly worse than that.

quote:
It's a natural product. RJR is merely a manufacturer of a plant product.
This is utterly irrelevant. As in, completely irrelevant to whether RJR ought to be deemed praiseworthy or villainous.

quote:
If they did something wrong, they should be tried once and have damages distributed to people hurt by it.
They did a lot more than just one thing wrong, and they did it across millions of people and decades of time and dozens of states and millions of lives. It's not the same thing as a murder trial.

quote:
If they didn't do something wrong, I think that civil / tort law unfairly punishes the company, again and again, by judges who want to make political statements.
You may very well be right that the only reason such a judgment was made was to make a political statement. Again, you haven't advanced an argument at all, but you may be right. However, punitive damages are not mere political statements. But you've ignored efforts in this thread to discuss that directly as well.

quote:
I also think that we're doing this to discourage tobacco use. I don't think it works. And I think suits like this damage the economy (my economic comments). They raise prices on smokers, most of whom are poor. From an economic perspective, the ramifications of this are huge.
Doing this raises the price of cigarettes. In your praises for market efficiency, this discourages tobacco use, by some amount. End of story. You can't on the one hand talk about economic perspectives and then on the other dismiss the idea that a higher price doesn't impact demand.

quote:
I'm done digging into the weeds, so to speak. People just want to pick at my zits rather than have a decent conversation about it.
In fact, your very first statement was to claim that even if a smoker didn't and couldn't have known the risks, it would still be their fault. Which I'm actually a little embarrassed I didn't pay more attention to, because wow.
quote:
Whether they knew smoking had risks or not, it's the smoker's fault. Even if the smoker worked for RJR, got free cigarettes, got PAID to smoke them. The company should still not be liable.
quote:
Why should this idiot get rewarded?

Why should a handful of sue-happy people get rewarded for relative's bad decisions?

Every few years, some litigious yahoo sues because they want money for themselves.

...THAT ONE litigious schmuck.

You're giving one greedy person a bunch of money...

Anyway, the point is, climb down off your cross there buddy. These aren't just zits being focused on. They are actually core elements of statements you've made, expressed in an inflammatory way.
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scifibum
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Herblay? If your chief concern is that someone just got made a billionaire unjustly, relax. That's not happening. The amount of the judgment won't stand.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:

They're both harmful. But what pertinence does this have on the topic?

Um, plenty, actually. If a major alcohol company was found to be engaging in the same degree of ultimate conspiracy to a) market to children, and b) conceal the harm and addictiveness of their product, additionally, ...

Cigarettes are massively more harmful than alcohol, one, and tobacco companies did seldom comparable terrible things related to that fact. So, the comparison to alcohol was off to begin with, and stuff.

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MattP
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quote:
1) Statutory caps on punitive damages.
There's some indication that setting a statutory cap creates an anchor toward which all judgements well tend to be drawn. A great deal for the huge companies that hurt a lot of people (since it caps their potential losses) and really bad for smaller businesses that will now pay significantly more than they would without the anchor price.
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Dogbreath
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As far as alcohol goes, another thing to take into consideration is those deaths are a result of excessive consumption. Moderate alcohol consumption is actually good for you, and is linked with better cardiovascular health, fewer strokes, lower chances of dementia, better prostate health, lower chances of developing diabetes, lower chances of cancer, and longevity and health in general.(in comparison to abstinence) The same can't be said for tobacco - it's not like smoking half a pack a day is healthy and good for you and 2 packs is bad. Any amount is bad.

Also, we live in a country that regulates the consumption and sale of alcohol far more than that of tobacco. The adverse effects of drunkeness (*excessive* use, mind you) have been widely known since the bronze age, the adverse effects of cigarettes have only recently been discovered,.

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narrativium
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
- It's a natural product. RJR is merely a manufacturer of a plant product.

Oh really?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_additives_in_cigarettes

quote:
[qb]- If they did something wrong, they should be tried once and have damages distributed to people hurt by it./QB]
They were. The $145 billion verdict was overturned on the grounds that it shouldn't have been a class action, thus opening the door for this very suit.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/22/us/huge-award-for-smokers-is-voided-by-appeals-court.html
quote:
A Florida appeals court threw out a landmark $145 billion punitive damage award against the nation's cigarette makers yesterday, saying the case should never have gone forward as a class-action lawsuit but rather as separate claims brought by individual smokers against the tobacco industry.

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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
1) Statutory caps on punitive damages.
There's some indication that setting a statutory cap creates an anchor toward which all judgements well tend to be drawn. A great deal for the huge companies that hurt a lot of people (since it caps their potential losses) and really bad for smaller businesses that will now pay significantly more than they would without the anchor price.
I think I might vote for a maximum multiplier of actual damages, but not for a dollar amount cap.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
1) Statutory caps on punitive damages.
There's some indication that setting a statutory cap creates an anchor toward which all judgements well tend to be drawn. A great deal for the huge companies that hurt a lot of people (since it caps their potential losses) and really bad for smaller businesses that will now pay significantly more than they would without the anchor price.
I think I might vote for a maximum multiplier of actual damages, but not for a dollar amount cap.
I could buy into that maybe.
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Darth_Mauve
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What are "punitive damages"? What are they for?

They are a mechanism so that the cost of doing wrong far out weighs the cost of doing right.

If I make a Widget, and I have two choices on how to make this widget, one that costs $100 and one that costs $10, I am likely to choose the $10 widget making process. I sell Ten Million widgets a year, saving $100 Million a year by using the cheaper process. However, the cheaply made widget breaks easier, and in 1 out of 100,000 cases that breaking widget causes the death of a user. They sue and I pay expenses for those that die. It costs me $20 Million a year to cover those expenses. Hey, I'm up $80 Million. Sucks to be the dead 1000 people and their families, but that's not important to the market. What can the market do to convince me to spend the extra money? A law suit where I am punished for my disregard for human life.

So the tobacco companies lied, cheated, and did there best to make money on a product that kills. People sue and may make big money from the punitive damages. You can look at it as rewarding people who were dumb enough to be fooled by an industries lies. Or you can look at it as punishment to an industry for the lies it told and the deaths it caused.

Most people who sue and demand punitive damages are not in it for the money. They are in it for justice, to stop the companies involved from dismissing the pain and suffering of those wronged with a Return On Investment calculation.

You are complaining that individual greed is being rewarded with billions of dollars. Apparently that is wrong. You are also defending corporate greed, which made billions of dollars a year for decades, as some how being above reproach.

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Herblay
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Do you smoke, Herblay? Stop, if so.

One interesting comment in that flurry.

I appreciate the concern, Tom. But riddle me this. Would you say the same thing to someone obese? Because the health risk for obesity is higher than for smoking. And it's probably just as hard to "stop" eating unhealthy.

Further, any reasonable person would know that smoking is harmful ... do you:
- Think I hadn't considered that before?
- Hold you in such esteem that it might make me rethink my evil ways?

No offense intended, I just thought that the comment was interesting. And I did quit seven years ago. But I do, honestly, appreciate the concern.

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Herblay
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Interesting comparison between alcohol and tobacco, that.

So, obesity is a similar risk to tobacco. And the argument some is making is that tobacco is a greater risk.

I would refute that alcohol is certainly more dangerous in two situations:
- Short-term chronic abuse
- Danger (physical and psychological) to other people in the form of abuse (verbal / physical) and vehicular

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Herblay
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quote:
Originally posted by Darth_Mauve:

You are complaining that individual greed is being rewarded with billions of dollars. Apparently that is wrong. You are also defending corporate greed, which made billions of dollars a year for decades, as some how being above reproach.

Not exactly:
- Individual Greed: I like the idea of limits. There are a lot of ways to look at this.
- Corporate Greed: A corporation in a competitive industry makes small profit. They mainly exist as a cash supply for shareholders and to pay workers. If we take money from corporations based on something done 50 years ago, do you advocate punishing the workers or the shareholders? (Note: that's a rhetorical question.)

If tobacco is just a big greedy institution, perhaps more people should buy tobacco stocks? Why has nobody figured it out before -- they must be making TONS OF MONEY?

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
...
- If they didn't do something wrong, I think that civil / tort law unfairly punishes the company, again and again, by judges who want to make political statements.

Eh? I don't know what's going on with this strange anti-judge sentiment going around the states, but the punitive damages in this case were determined by jury

From the OP
quote:
After a four-week trial and 11 hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict granting compensatory damages of $7.3 million to the widow and the couple's child, as well as $9.6 million to Johnson's son from a previous relationship.

The same jury deliberated for another seven hours before awarding Robinson the additional sum of $23.6 billion in punitive damages, according to the verdict forms.


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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
If tobacco is just a big greedy institution, perhaps more people should buy tobacco stocks? Why has nobody figured it out before -- they must be making TONS OF MONEY?

uh this is pretty much precisely why tobacco stocks have been a pretty good staple for a good long time. RJR and co did indeed make TONS OF MONEY and then try to preserve their TONS OF MONEY to the greatest extent that they could by lying about and attempting to conceal the truth of both their product's harm and its addictiveness

this argument could be tossed round and round over and over a billion times by you, and it will still settle firmly adhered to that point, frankly

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Herblay
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
RJR and co did indeed make TONS OF MONEY and then try to preserve their TONS OF MONEY to the greatest extent that they could by lying about and attempting to conceal the truth of both their product's harm and its addictiveness


This happened in 1953. 61 years ago.

At what point do you stop being surprised that tobacco is bad? 50 years? 100 years? I'll bet that people in the 50s could tell you that heavy smokers coughed and died a miserable death.

Maybe we need a fresh lawsuit against Congress for annexing land from the Native Americans? At some point it needs to stop being affrontation against a handful of bad people and needs to turn into a historical footnote.

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Samprimary
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again:

quote:
MR. WYDEN. Let me begin my questioning on whether or not nicotine is addictive. Let me ask you first, and I'd like to just go down the row, whether each of you believes that nicotine is not addictive. I heard virtually all of you touch on it. Yes or no, do you believe nicotine is not addictive?

MR. CAMPBELL (President of Philip Morris U.S.A.).
I believe nicotine is not addictive, yes.

MR. WYDEN. Mr Johnston?

MR. JAMES JOHNSTON (Chairman and CEO of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company). Mr. Congressman, cigarettes and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definition of addiction. There is no intoxication.

MR. WYDEN. WeŽll take that as a "no." Again, time is short. I think that each of you believe that nicotine is not addictive. We would just like to have this for the record.

MR. TADDEO (President of U.S. Tobacco).
I donŽt believe that nicotine or our products are addictive.

MR. TISCH (Chairman and CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. HORRIGAN (Chairman and CEO of Liggett Group).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. SANDEFUR (Chairman and CEO of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. DONALD JOHNSTON (President and CEO of American Tobacco Company).
And I, too, believe that nicotine is not addictive.

Hint: this conversation did not occur 61 years ago
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Herblay
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Why does this matter? It's not like they're waging a huge campaign of disinformation. Even if they did, they were asking for a personal opinion.

I'm sure the CEO of McDonalds would say the same thing.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
It's not like they're waging a huge campaign of disinformation.
*blink* That's exactly what it's like.
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theamazeeaz
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I just googled the date of that hearing. Totally did not expect XXXX XXXXXXX to be president at the time (no spoilers). Or for me to be alive by a rather large margin.

[ July 29, 2014, 07:23 PM: Message edited by: theamazeeaz ]

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
Why does this matter? It's not like they're waging a huge campaign of disinformation.

this post right here is amazing. You have amazed me.
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Jake
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It's that post that convinces me that Herblay is pulling the forum's collective leg.
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Mucus
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Maybe, but he/she has been at it a while with this, "look, a distraction!" strategy.
http://www.hatrack.com/ubb/main/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=055638;p=1

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
Eeeh, there's just too many people arguing with me. I'm mixing them all up. Again, here's my points:

1. Smoking's bad.
2. Smoking's not good, it's bad.
3. Smokers are all poor, and taxing them to subsidize your liposuction is bad.
4. Smoking's not the only thing that's bad. So is sex, hang-gliding, bungie-jumping, and McDonalds. In a perfect world, we'd tax them all. Since we can't, let's just tax the smokers.
5. Just because someone's a little bad, doesn't mean they're a lot bad. But they're still bad.


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