Thursday, December 15, 2005

A ruling that warms this anti-smoking heart

This morning, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out a ridiculous $10 billion verdict against Philip Morris. And I am rejoicing (in spite of feeling a bit cruddy from lingering jet lag).

Now, you may be puzzled. For, as you may have noticed, I have anti-smoking tendencies. No, let’s put it plainly. I can be an anti-smoking Nazi. I’ve walked out of restaurants with inadequate non-smoking seats. I’ve voted with enthusiasm to ban smoking in said restaurants. I’ve (mostly politely) told inconsiderate people to get their cigarettes out of my face. I consider habitually subjecting children to second-hand smoke to be child abuse. I do often flex about smoking friends if I wish, but you get the picture. If people want to smoke, fine, that’s their decision . . . as long as unwilling others don’t have to breathe their smoke or pay their medical bills.

I rant mention this rather unsympathetic side of me so you know my rejoicing in today’s ruling has nothing to do with a love for Philip Morris’ products. Why I rejoice is that people who don’t take responsibility for their own actions, but instead sue for millions when their actions have logical consequences should be put in their place.

Heck, for at least 40 years, the government has been warning people that smoking can kill you. I know because that was drummed into me in elementary school. And prominent warning labels have been on cigs longer than that. If people continued to smoke during that time and ended up killing themselves, IT’S THEIR OWN @#$% FAULT! Yes, their death is still sad, and lung cancer and emphysema and the like is a terrible way to go, but it’s still their fault.

But for people (or their families) to then sue as if it’s not their fault, and for courts to actually give such suits the time of day is outrageous. That $10 billion verdict was beyond outrageous. Rewarding a total lack of personal responsibility like that . . . don’t get me started.

That’s the bottom line for me in such cases – personal responsibility. If you do something stupid and pay the consequences, then at the very least accept that it’s your fault and don’t try to win the litigation lottery from it.

To be fair, most smokers have that much character and try not to inflict their smoke on the unwilling and certainly don’t whine to the courts. But those who don’t have that much common decency get me smoking. I’m glad to see one such set of smokers and their money-grubbing lawyers get put in their place. May it happen again and again and again.

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