Friday, January 27, 2006

The attack on Big Tobacco was kid stuff

The attack on Big Tobacco was kid stuff. Whether you're for or against smoking and tobacco, you can't ignore the fact that the cigarette industry was gutted by the lawsuits over the last decades that portrayed the tobacco industry as willing to lie cheat and bring enormous economic and political pressure to push their products over the dead and dying bodies of their customers. Whether the outcome is just or not (maybe it was just but overdone -- I don't know) it worked. Smoking is no longer done in polite society. I remember a time when you could smoke anywhere. Elevators were a no-no because of some kind of "safety" excuse, but people carried lit cigarettes on elevators too. Conference rooms, restaurants, movie theatres, business offices, airplanes, were all candidates for a place to light up. There was no slightest thought, in most cases, whether you had to ask. If you were polite, you would try your best to make sure the other guy didn't sit in your smoke. Somehow, into that culture, enough of a shock was injected to change the culture. Now smokers quietly skulk off to the outdoors or their own homes and cars to light up. Lighting up a cigarette on an airplane (most of which are still outfitted with ashtrays at every seat) will get you an emergency landing and an unpleasant interview with the Homeland Security people at the very least, and probably a lot more trouble than that.

Now along comes the real villain. The cigarette companies are pikers. This is the 500-lb. gorilla of evil corporate cultures -- Big Pharma.

This writer is not anti-corporation or anti-corporate America. But there is such a thing as a bad guy. And in the corporate world, Big Pharma is a bad guy. It's like an intractable trouble-maker in the world of basketball, or a priest who likes little boys. It doesn't reflect on all basketball players or all priests, but this particular one is bad to the bone. And people are starting to figure it out. Especially those that work in the legal machine that brought down Big Tobacco. As seemingly normal people suddenly run out and shoot their friends or hang themselves in the garage after taking drugs that are supposedly designed to help with sanity, the bereft survivors and the lawyers who know how to put together class action lawsuits are teaming up for a wave of lawsuits that could be more like a tsunami.

And whether or not you liked what they did to Big Tobacco, you gotta admit this one is justice. How long ago did America turn its sober face on the story of the Columbine School massacre in Colorado, by two boys who were on psychiatric drugs, or the Prozac mother who drowned her own children, or the 12-year-old who shot his grandparents then burned the house down, or the Zoloft-laced wife of comedian Phil Hartman who inexplicably shot him, then herself. The list is very long, and growing daily. Big Tobacco might give you lung cancer eventually, but it was nothing like this.

But Big Pharma isn't going down without a fight. And the latest punch is a drug-industry sponsored law that is wending its way through congress shielding Big Pharma from state-level lawsuits. The specious argument is that because Big Pharma meets the requirements of a federal agency (the FDA) in producing their drugs, they can only be sued in a federal court. Read about it in this article by Stephen Pizzo.

Clever they are. Safe they seem. But Yoda say they will not be able to put it off forever. The actual crime here is enormous. There are individuals who have covered up the ill effects of these drugs very energetically and systematically for years and years while people died. It amounts to multiple counts of manslaughter, potentially. It's the simple truth. Sooner or later the house of cards is going to collapse.

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