Big Tobacco’s Big Whine

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Do you hear that long, low, wheezing whine? That’s Big Tobacco, moaning that it’s being picked on by a new law passed this year to restrict cigarette company advertising.

Picked on? This is the industry that continues to profit by picking on the public with addictive, carcinogenic products that kill 440,000 Americans a year. This is the industry that has lied repeatedly to consumers and regulators about the deadly dangers of its products, that secretly juiced up the products’ nicotine levels to hook unsuspecting customers, that cynically used its marketing muscle to lure children into cigarette addiction, and that aggressively pitched “light” cigarettes to young women, falsely asserting that these products are safer.

This industry has no right whatsoever to whine. But with millions of addicted customers, the tobacco giants are so rich they’ve retained a gaggle of high-priced lawyers to go to court, citing the First Amendment to market their smokes without the new law’s public-safety restrictions. Led by R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard Tobacco, the lawsuit wails that advertising constraints infringe on their constitutional right to communicate with customers about such new products as their “reduced harm” cigarettes.

There they go again with their trickery—”reduced harm,” even if true, is still harm. It’s still addictive and deadly. Why should profiteering corporations be unleashed to market any level of deliberate harm, especially in ads that would reach children? Another act of trickery is that the industry went court shopping, filing their lawsuit in Kentucky—which leads the nation in smoking, is a major tobacco producer and has an industry-friendly court system.

They can whine till the cows come home, but this lawsuit is not about constitutional rights, it’s about tobacco corporation greed.

Embracing the World with Our Arms

The good news is that America is Number One! Once again, the U.S. of A is at the top of the heap, not only besting every other nation on the globe, but also beating out all other nations combined. Go USA!

The bad news is that this spectacular achievement is in the sales of military weaponry. Yes, your country and mine is the top arms supplier to the world. In 2008, America’s corporate weapons-makers peddled nearly $38 billion worth of everything from attack helicopters to small arms. This was $13 billion more than the previous year, and it totaled more than two-thirds of all sales in last year’s global arms bazaar. Our closest “competitor” was not Russia, not China, not Iran, but of all places Italy, which tallied $3.7 billion in sales.

In its annual report on the arms market, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service noted that last year’s surge in U.S. sales was “extraordinary,” given that a global recession restricted the ability of many countries to lavish such funds on war toys. Apparently, however, our arms dealers did a bang-up job of beating the bushes to find buyers. Especially fruitful were sales efforts in developing nations, which the report calls “the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers.”

Indeed, such developing countries as Morocco, India, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates accounted for almost $30 billion of our overall sales, giving U.S. suppliers 70 percent of this lucrative market. Russia was second, earning $3.3 billon for helping arm the developing world.

What a fine example of a national achievement this sets for all the boys and girls of our land. No doubt they’ll bust with pride—unless, of course, they end up having to battle some of the governments we’re now arming.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work—and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown—visit www.jimhightower.com.