Today is the Virtual Protest on Washington, organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The protest seeks primarily to convince the Department of Justice to restore its request for a $130 billion remedy that would cover the costs of a national smoking cessation program for all current smokers.
The basic premise for this campaign is that: "The U.S. Department of Justice is trying to let Big Tobacco off the hook to the tune of $120 billion."
The Rest of the Story
While the idea of a protest to put pressure on the Bush Administration and senior Department of Justice officials is a nice one, the basic premise for this particular protest is severely flawed. After all, the premise that DOJ is trying to let Big Tobacco off the hook to the tune of $120 billion assumes that Big Tobacco was ever on the hook for that $120 billion.
The fact is: Big Tobacco was never on the hook for the $130 billion requested for a smoking cessation program for current smokers because that request was inconsistent with the D.C. Court of Appeals' interpretation of the RICO law governing this case.
Perhaps DOJ let Big Tobacco off the hook, but they certainly did not let Big Tobacco off the hook to the tune of $120 billion. In fact, the government will never see a penny of the $10 billion it now requests to fund a smoking cessation program for newly-addicted smokers. That too, is inconsistent with the RICO statute because it is quite indirectly tied to future RICO violations. There are many factors that could lead to smokers becoming addicted in the future; continuing RICO violations are just one of them and there is no way to determine how many smokers became addicted due to RICO violations compared to other causes.
It still ceases to amaze me how the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and several other anti-smoking organizations are unable to see this case in anything other than monetary terms.