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Big Tobacco Pays The Price

A while back a Florida jury ordered Philip Morris to pay $8 million to the widow of a smoker who died of lung cancer. The man, Stuart Hess, was a chain smoker for decades. Philip Morris said they would appeal. This was an important verdict, because it is the first of about 8,000 lawsuits which have been filed in Florida against the big tobacco companies.

During the trial, a video was shown of 1994 testimony before the U.S. Congress where top executives of the tobacco companies denied that smoking was addictive. Those statements have been long discredited by medical fact.

Tobacco companies can't hide from their sordid past. Even though they had evidence that tobacco was harmful, they kept it from the public for years. And during that period of denial they continued to advertise their products as being a healthy, all-American pastime. Their advertisements on TV, radio and magazines enticed generation after generation to take up their addictive habit - causing literally millions of people to die from from cancer and emphysema - while making the tobacco industry billions of dollars

As part of the tobacco industry's advertising campaigns, they would often include popular celebrities endorsing their products. Particularly desirable celebrities were singers, such as Bing Crosby, sports figures and action heroes such as John Wayne. Popular singers such as Crosby were important to the tobacco industry because the celebrities would say how their cigarette brand was "milder", meaning milder to your throat. And if the great crooner Bing Crosby could smoke and sing his popular hit songs, well that was good enough for good old average Joe American six-pack.

John Wayne was also an important endorser of cigarettes. He smoked 5 packs of cigarettes a day - and died of lung cancer in 1979. These ads show how through the years the tobacco industry promoted their products, and continue to do so, with little concern to the proven health risks to its addicted consumers both old and young.

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