A US court has ordered America’s second largest cigarette company, RJ Reynalds to pay $23.6 billion to the wife of a smoker who died of lung cancer.
Twenty-three point six BILLION dollars! Are they crazy?
Cynthia Robinson took legal action against the firm in 2008, seeking compensation for her husband’s death in 1996.
During the four-week trial, lawyers for Ms Robinson argued that RJ Reynolds was negligent in informing consumers of the dangers of consuming tobacco.This negligence, the lawyers said, led to her husband Michael Johnson contracting lung cancer from smoking after becoming “addicted” and failing multiple attempts to quit.
Well I am sorry Mr Johnson died of a nasty disease and normally I wouldn’t complain much about ordinary individuals getting the better of big companies, but this case is just ridiculous and what it really is, is an attack on people’s right to smoke legally by making it economic suicide for cigarette companies to market their product in the normal way. Unless I stop enjoying my cigarettes or feel that for health and economic reasons it would be better to stop I will continue to smoke, but I don’t really want to go to back street dealers to get my cigarettes. I will if I have to though, even if it is not legal.
Ms Robinson’s lawyer said that, “RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards. We hope that this verdict will send a message to RJ Reynolds and other big tobacco companies that will force them to stop putting the lives of innocent people in jeopardy.”
Well, I’m sorry but what planet was Mr Robinson living on? How could he not know that smoking could be addictive and carry health risks? It is true that the health warnings on cigarettes have got stronger in the last decade but I’m pretty sure that there were health warnings on cigarettes in most parts of the world long before that. I was born in the seventies and when I was growing up there were always health warnings on cigarette packets and advertising. In addition to that there were warnings about the health risks on TV and at school several times a year.
The truth is we sometimes decide to do things which are risky for our health. But we are not stupid, dumb robots; we are human beings and I think making our own decisions about how we enjoy ourselves should be our right. That means taking responsibility for our own actions and I don’t have much time for people who are not mature enough to live with both sides of the equation. When I started smoking my parents gave me a big lecture about the health risks. I cannot claim that I was ever unaware of those risks. Of course I hope I don’t get cancer or any of the other diseases that are associated with smoking but I do understand it is a possibility. If I do get one of those illnesses I hope and believe I have enough character not to blame anybody but myself.
I also think the addictive quality of nicotine is over emphasised. Yes, I am addicted. I admit that. But that does not mean I couldn’t give up if I wanted or needed to. It just means it wouldn’t be so nice or so easy to stop. I think people should try to develop their will power and stop blaming others if their will power is weak. I know that is harsh, but life isn’t easy and I really think people should grow up and understand that.
What really makes me angry about this case is two things. The first is that it is one more step towards making something I enjoy illegal. It is one more step that other powers are taking to say that adults like me are not grown up enough to make our own decisions and that “they” should manage my life for me. Why? Because if every cigarette company is liable to pay out billions of dollars to anybody who claims they were not intelligent or mature enough to understand the risks of smoking it will clearly become impossible for such companies to do business.
Secondly what is that woman going to do with twenty three billion dollars? Perhaps if the cigarette companies had been obliged to donate several billion dollars to cancer research, that would have been more fair. But paying that amount of money to one individual? Crazy! Just think of all the schools, hospitals and food aid that money could provide. Maybe Mrs Robinson will choose to donate some of that money to such causes herself; but the idea that one individual life could be worth that much when everyday thousands of lives could be (but aren’t being) saved for a fraction of that amount is obscene.
If cigarette companies, governments or other big institutions have that much money to spare let them spend it on something useful to humanity. But trying to bankrupt companies rather than banning them is sneaky and mean. If the freedom to smoke has to be debated let us actually debate it rather than treating smokers like mindless idiots who need to be legislated out of existence because they are too addicted and dumb to speak for themselves.