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Punitive Damages of US$23.6 billion to a Cigarette Maker for Death of a Smoker

Updated on January 20, 2015

Tobacco plant accumulates polonium 210 and lead 210, radioactive materials poisonous to smokers and inhalers of second hand smoke (drawing by Melpor)

Litvinenko dying in a hospital (Photo from Internet. Jan. 21,2015)

Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy, reported to have been killed with polonium, also found in tobacco (photo from Melpor, hubpages. Aug. 10,2014)

This punitive damages is the largest out of individual lawsuits against the cigarette industry

Florida (USA) Court slammed R.J. Reynolds with US$23.6 billion damages for death of Michael Johnson, Sr. from smoking

Time has come when the cigarette industry takes the defensive stance from its arrogance in purveying that smoking is not the cause of many cases of lung cancer.

Recently the Supreme Court of Florida, USA, convicted R. J. Reynolds for the death of Michael Johnson, Sr. from lung cancer owing to smoking. (AP. US jury slams R.J. Reynolds with $23.6 billion in damages. Business Mirror. July 21,2014:B2-4). R.J. Reynolds is the second largest cigarette maker in USA.

The lawsuit was filed in 2006 by Cynthia Robinson in behalf of her late husband Michael who died of lung cancer in 1996. Cynthia filed this individual lawsuit after the Florida jury rejected a class action lawsuit for US$145 billion.

The Florida court has ruled that “smokers and their families need only prove addiction and that smoking caused their illnesses or death” (same source as above).

Sick smokers, or proxies of dead smoke victims, or their survivors can file lawsuits against a tobacco company “without having to prove to the court again that Big Tobacco knowingly sold dangerous products and hid the hazards of cigarette smoking.”

“Other Florida juries have hit tobacco companies with tens of millions of dollars in punitive damages in lawsuits stemming from the original class action lawsuits” (same source as above).

This Michael Johnson, Jr. case might open the floodgates of lawsuits against the cigarette industry. It is similar to the lawsuits filed by 27,000 victims of Vioxx who were indemnified with US$ 1.84 billion. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after the maker itself found that taking Vioxx, a pain reliever, continuously for 18 months triggered stroke and heart attack.

It is highly likely that there are more victims of smoking than victims of Vioxx.

Hidden from the public and consumers

To recall, in 1999 the cigarette industry admitted that cigarette contains polonium 210, a radioactive material that is poisonous. This after 46 US states filed a series of lawsuits against the cigarette industry. Whereupon this industry was forced to open to the public documents showing that it had known the presence of polonium in their product (Melpor. The Radioactive Polonium in Tobacco Leaves. Hubpages. Aug. 10,2014). For 50 years this industry hid this fact from the public for the obvious reason that it would damage the marketability of tobacco products.

As a result, Pres. Barack Obama signed into law in 2009 the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.”

This law mandates the Federal Drug Administration to regulate the cigarette industry. FDA supervises the removal of polonium from cigarettes.

The scientific fact that tobacco products contain polonium 210 is now open to the public. And the US courts have concurred by making decisions based on it.

Poisons in tobacco

Some plants accumulate minerals in their tissues whether they need it or not. For example, a fern accumulates arsenic. Cashew accumulates selenium. Amaranth accumulates zinc. Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) accumulates copper. Accumulation means the plant stores amounts more than it needs.

Tobacco plant accumulates polonium 210. It also accumulates lead 210, another radioactive material. These are traced ultimately to the sun. Polonium is a decay product of uranium 238 found concentrated in phosphate rocks used as fertilizer. Uranium also decays into lead 210. Lead settles to the leaves of tobacco. Both polonium 210 and lead 210 decay into lead 206 which is stable.

I have another Hub on the decay and how it mutates DNA, the heredity material in man, resulting in tumor and cancer.

Even before 1999, the scientific community outside the orbit of the cigarette industry had reported the presence of poisons in tobacco. Dr. Dean Ornish, MD wrote that tobacco contains polonium (Ornish, D., MD. Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. 1995). Likewise, Dr. Elmer Cranton, MD had warned of the presence of polonium 210 and lead 210 in tobacco (Cranton, E. MD and A. Brecher. Bypassing Bypass. 1984).

In 1964, Wilma E. Hunt of the Harvard School of Public Health found polonium 210 in cigarette smoke, according to Melpor.

Entries on presence of polonium and lead in tobacco are found in Encyclopedia Britannica 2009 and Microsoft Encarta 2009.

Reports have it that polonium was used to kill Litvinenko, a former Russian spy. It is suspected that polonium was used to poison Yasser Arafat, former leader of Palestine, in a French hospital.

Wish comes true

Dr. Samuel S. S. Epstein, MD advocated, in 1976 yet, that the cigarette industry pay for medication and be made accountable for deaths related to tobacco, to wit:

“Probably one of the most effective ways of decreasing the tobacco death toll would be to make the industry pay for tobacco-caused cancer and other diseases, as well as other national costs” (Epstein, S.S., MD . The Politics of Cancer. 1978:173).

Crops other than tobacco

I have advocated for the ban of growing tobacco in the Philippines. Tobacco is not native to this country. It was introduced by the Spaniards during the Spanish colonial regime (1527-1899). The Spaniards enforced a tobacco monopoly to take advantage of the tobacco craze in Europe.

Alternative crops that earn income to farmers should be promoted. Cotton is a good alternative crop, so are root crops.

I supervised a group of Virginia tobacco farmers in La Union province in 1975. After the tobacco growing season, the farmers grew cotton. They told me they got more income from cotton. Besides cotton is more useful than tobacco. Virginia tobacco needs curing. Fresh green leaves are placed inside a flue-curing barn to dry and turn them golden yellow in color for five days. This process needs fuel that is provided by fuelwood. Flue-curing has resulted in the cutting down of trees in the forest, and in the backyard. Fruit trees like duhat, tamarind and mango had not been spared. The outcome is ecological crisis in the Ilocos region where Virginia tobacco grows well.


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