Friday, February 02, 2007

Molly Ivins, fighter against Big Tobacco, succumbs to cancer

Syndicated columnist and author Molly Ivins, a fighter against political hypocrisy and economic greed wherever she saw it, succumbed to cancer this week, at age 62. She kept writing her scathing and often hilarious political columns until the end.

Among Ivins' numerous credits is her insightful expose of the tobacco industry. In one of her columns, she wrote:
06.26.01 - AUSTIN, Texas -- Look at it this way: The good news is there's at least one thing about which George W. Bush is consistent. George W. Bush does not believe in doing anything to hurt big business.

He especially doesn't believe in letting anyone sue business. He is opposed to a patients' bill of rights for that reason; he tried to keep the lawyers who won a $17 billion case for the state of Texas from getting their fees for that reason; and tort reform, which is another way of saying you can't sue corporations that injure or kill you or your family, is a burning passion with him.

So it should come as no surprise that the federal government has decided to settle its case against the tobacco companies. According to anti-smoking groups, in the 2000 elections the tobacco companies gave $8 million in campaign contributions, 80 percent of it to Republicans. Bush certainly knew when he appointed John Ashcroft attorney general that Ashcroft was one of the leading senators in stopping anti-smoking legislation in 1998 that would have toughened regulations and increased prices.

Administration officials have been saying they don't think they can win the case, even though one state after another has won, which means the tobacco companies go into settlement negotiations with little reason to pony up. The government was claiming $20 billion in damages for money it has spent on health care for its employees, veterans and those on Medicare with illnesses caused by smoking.

Knowingly making and marketing a poisonous, addictive product could be considered of dubious legality. I fail to see the difference between that and Murder, Inc. (As one who has quit smoking many, many times, I speak with some feeling on the issue.) The idea that smokers have a "choice" about the habit seems to me a legitimate argument: I can't imagine suing a tobacco company because I was stupid enough to start smoking. But an addiction you already have is not a problem that can be solved by just saying no.

The government was suing to recover the cost to everybody else of treating smoking illnesses and would then have used much of the money to educate young people about why they shouldn't smoke. Given the amount the tobacco companies spend on marketing their poison, it makes some sense to have a counter-force out there, unless we all want to continue paying these staggering health costs, while the tobacco companies make billions. Source.
Good-bye, Molly. You will be missed.

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