Harm Reduction

Walter Olson's July 18 editorial-page commentary "The Runaway Jury Is No Myth" describes many lines of attack that tobacco lawyers will pursue as they appeal the landmark Engle tobacco verdict. Mr. Olson's uncompromising support of each of the tobacco industry's positions, one more erroneous than the next, leads one to question whether any verdict that would hold the companies responsible for their misconduct would sit well with him.

Readers should critically question his assellion that justice is perverted when lawyers reject biased jurors or that some new constitutional right, "multiple jeopardy," is violated when a civil defendant faces punitive damages on more than one occasion.

As conservatives, Mr. Olson and I would both agree that we do not need more legislative...

To the Editor:

Re "Tobacco's New Best Friend," by Jacob Sullum (Op-Ed, July 20):

I agree with Mr. Sullum when he asserts that government is an ally of the tobacco industry, but this has long been true. Although the tobacco industry appeared to fight the congressionally mandated warning labels that began appearing on cigarette packs in 1965, the industry was well aware that these labels would shield them from liability for their deceptive marketing practices, and that they would have no beneficial effect on public health.

The Department of Agriculture has long been an avid promoter of tobacco exports to the developing world.

Although Mr. Sullum doesn't specify what it is that the tobacco companies give "in return" to their devoted customers, let me make...

To the Editor:

Holman Jenkins has certainly captured the irony involved in the states' de facto partnership with the tobacco industry, ostensibly to protect the continuing influx of settlement dollars into state coffers ("Look Who's Falling in Love...", April 26). However, he is wrong about a few points:

He agrees with the tobacco industry's favorite argument, that "everyone knows cigarettes are bad," so smokers ask for what they get, i.e., cancer and emphysema. No other industry is held to such a lax standard of informing their customers of the inherent risks of using their product. Studies have shown that smokers have only the vaguest notion of the spectrum of diseases and disabilities produced by smoking, nor are they aware that these dangers persist for many years...

To the Editor:

Without addressing either the aesthetic or constitutional issues raised by Mr. Turley in his Op-Ed "A Bad Canadian Law..." (Feb. 28), I take strong issue with several of his points on smoking and health:

Contrary to Mr. Turley's assertion, few smokers are aware of the range of adverse health effects to which smoking exposes them, some of which are irreversible. A "vast majority" may suspect that smoking "is no good for me," but that hardly qualifies as an informed consumer. Smokers are unaware, for example, of tobacco's role in the causation of blindness and cervical cancer. Also, the smokers who "knowingly assume those risks" are overwhelmingly teenagers when they make that "choice," which becomes a lifelong addiction in the majority. Kids are not...

To the Editor:

That tobacco companies are currying favor with minority communities is neither new nor surprising (Tobacco and Its Money Have Minority Allies in New York, January 4). Yet, the backing of tobacco interests by some black and Hispanic New York lawmakers and their tacit promotion of cigarette smoking is shameful.

Black Americans suffer higher rates of smoking-related diseases than whites. In New York State, the prevalence of smoking among Hispanic adults surpasses that of whites and blacks. If minority politicians were truly concerned about the welfare of the communities they represent, they would not sacrifice the health of their constituents for short-term economic and political gains.

Page through The Art of Simple Living, a new magazine published by a division of Hearst Magazines, and notice that it looks like most feel-good women's magazines. There is a profile of the pop singer Sarah McLachlan, an article about growing an indoor herb garden and step-by-step instructions for brewing tea.

But the careful reader will notice a difference between Simple Living and, say, Mirabella. Half of the advertising is for cigarettes: Carlton, Misty Lights, Kool and Capri. And then there is the tiny paragraph below the table of contents that notes the corporation, apart from Hearst Magazines, behind this women's magazine: the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation.

As tobacco companies face increasingly severe restrictions on how...

Robert Bork's arguments ("Tobacco Suit Is Latest Abuse of the Rule of Law," editorial page, Sept. 23) concerning the impending Federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry are unscientific and specious. His assertion that smoking is "not addictive as medical science has long defined addiction" is presumptuous, if for no other reason than the tobacco magnates and their subservient "scientists" acknowledged the addictive nature of tobacco in their own internal memos. Speaking as a former clinician with twenty years of experience treating smoking-related diseases, the fact that only 10 % of smokers are able to quit unaided should be enough testimony to their addiction to counter Mr. Bork's blithe dismissal.

Also, Judge Bork's claim that public-health's desire to hold Big Tobacco...

Executive Summary

In the Fall 1998 issue of Regulation ("The Cato Review of Business and Government"), the Cato Institute*** published an article by Robert Levy and Rosalind Marimont titled "Lies, Damned Lies, & 400,000 Smoking-Related Deaths." In their article, Levy and Marimont contend that the U.S. government's estimate of approximately 400,000 annual premature deaths due to cigarette smoking is scientifically unsound and substantially inflated. The authors assert that "the war on smoking...has grown into a monster of deceit and greed, eroding the credibility of government and subverting the rule of law."

In this report, scientists at the American Council on Science and Health refute Levy and Marimont's key arguments (presented below) as...

If, as a libertarian, Walter Olson ("The Florida Tobacco Jurors: Anything But Typical," Rule of Law, July 12) is truly against government intervention in tobacco regulation, he should favor the arena of litigation. There must be some distinction between liberty and anarchy. While there are justifiable objections to excessive legal fees in frivolous lawsuits, why Mr. Olson would choose to attack a verdict against the tobacco behemoth is a mystery. His quibbling with the plaintiff attorney's jury selection tactic--that Mr. Rosenblatt had the temerity to actually screen the prospective jurors to weed out those he perceived to be biased against his clients--smacks of frustration with the outcome more than of any rational thought. He is surely aware that this screening is the essence of...

To the Editor:

Holcomb B. Noble's article discussing the heavy burden of asthma faced by poor, largely minority children in New York City (News article, July 27, 1999) neglects to mention a prime trigger of children's asthma: cigarette smoke. Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is known to increase severity of asthma symptoms, and to impair recovery following hospitalization of asthmatic children.

While the article overlooks the well-established effect of cigarette smoke in exacerbating asthma, it cites the largely unfounded role of pesticides twice. This inappropriate emphasis merely underscores our country's misplaced concern about the impact of trace levels of environmental chemicals, particularly pesticides, on disease. By doing so, the public is encouraged to...