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tobacco

Details, always those pesky details: “A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of 750 tobacco suits, citing this major problem: The Florida law firm that brought the cases had mistakenly identified 588 dead smokers as still being alive.” [ABA Journal]

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“If we don’t get a dime, that’s OK, if we can make a difference and save some lives,” said longtime Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary, one of the lawyers representing a woman awarded $23 billion-with-a-b in punitive damages by a Florida jury for the lung cancer death of her husband, a longtime smoker. [USA Today] I’ve covered earlier stages in the long-running Florida Engel tobacco litigation, which included a $145 billion punitive damage verdict later thrown out, in articles here, here, and here, as well as Overlawyered coverage; more on Willie Gary.

More: Jacob Sullum on the illogical basis of the jury’s decision.

Mass tort roundup

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2014

  • New Hampshire lottery: after Granite State’s MTBE contamination suits pays off big, Vermont files its own [WLF Legal Pulse]
  • Supreme Court declines to review various cases arising from Florida’s Engle tobacco litigation [Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSBlog, earlier] “U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Fen-Phen Lawyers’ Appeal of $42M Kentucky Verdict” [Insurance Journal, earlier]
  • In action against five drug firms over opioid marketing, California’s Santa Clara County partners with law firms Robinson Calcagnie, Cohen Milstein, and Hagens Berman, marking at least the tenth time the county has teamed up with outside law firms to file suits [Legal NewsLine; earlier on Chicago's involvement in painkiller suit]
  • Lester Brickman on fraud in mesothelioma litigation [SSRN] “Plaintiff Lawyer Offers Inside Look At `Institutionalized Fraud’ At Asbestos Trusts” [Daniel Fisher]
  • “‘Light’ cigarette case vs Huck’s continues after 9 years; Two current judges had been plaintiff’s counsel” [Madison Record, ABA Journal]
  • “If honesty in the judicial system means anything, it means proceeding with candor before the tribunal, which plaintiffs’ counsel did not do during the removal proceedings.” [dissent in Peter Angelos Cashmere Bouquet asbestos case, Legal NewsLine]
  • Report on products liability and the driverless car [John Villasenor, Brookings, earlier]

Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on July 9, 2014

  • Congress responds to Veterans Administration health care scandal by throwing huge new sums at care [Nicole Kaeding, Chris Edwards, Cato] “Every Senior V.A. Executive Was Rated ‘Fully Successful’ or Better Over 4 Years.” [NYT via Instapundit] “VA Hospitals aren’t included on the federal government’s Hospital Compare web site” [White Coat]
  • Canadian judge quashes as vexatious suit over non-admission to medical school [Winnipeg Free Press]
  • Brain-damaged child cases: “14.5 Million Reasons Physicians Practice Defensive Medicine” [White Coat, Cleveland] “North Carolina Jury Deadlocks in John Edwards’ Malpractice Trial Against Doctor” [Insurance Journal, emergency medicine]
  • “Medical Licensing in the States: Some Room for Agreement — and Reform” [Charles Hughes, Cato]
  • “NY Launches Statewide Med Mal Settlement Program” [NYDN via TortsProf]
  • “Unlucky Strike: Private Health and the Science, Law and Politics of Smoking” [John Steddon and David Boaz, Cato program] Here’s the long-awaited segue to complete prohibition: British Medical Association recommends banning tobacco permanently for persons born after 2000 [WaPo]
  • Sneaky: California ballot language undoing MICRA liability limits “buried in an initiative titled The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014.” [Yul Ejnes, KevinMD]

Paternalism roundup

by Walter Olson on May 19, 2014

  • “Go to Heaven, Bloomberg: The meddling ex-mayor thinks he is on a mission from God.” [Sullum] “De Blasio to resurrect attempt at NYC big soda ban” [Eric Boehm, Watchdog.org]
  • The CDC connection: much of Bloomberg’s crew of public health officials has moved into the Obama administration, and has big plans [Jeff Stier]
  • “The public health approach rejects the idea that there is such a thing as unfettered free will” — here’s Bloomberg paternalism boiled down nicely for you [Larry Gostin, Hastings Center Report via Scott Burris, Bill of Health (regretting "mass delusion of autonomy")]
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC): if skeptical media call, tell ‘em you’re not around [Zenon Evans]
  • For her own good: “89-Year-Old Kicked Out of HUD Housing for Smoking Cigarettes” [Elizabeth N. Brown]
  • “Longer Pub Hours, Fewer Car Accidents in England and Wales” [James Schneider, Econlib]
  • Sally Satel on the benefits of e-cigarettes [AEI Ideas video] “The FDA Says E-Cigarettes Are Less Harmful Than Smoking” [Jason Koebler, Vice Motherboard]

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Jacob Grier has an analysis, and predicts a regulatory snarl for e-cigarettes based on a poorly written statute, cartel profits for major cigarette makers, bad news for cigar and pipe smokers, and wider black markets.

“Who Needs Legislation? Dems Want To Extend Tobacco Settlement To E-Cigarettes” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes] “E-cigarettes are bad because they look like cigarettes. E-hookahs are worse because they don’t.” [Jacob Sullum; more from Sullum on the unanimous vote by the Los Angeles city council to ban vaping in public places]

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on March 8, 2014

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Socialism_Inspectors
I’ve been blogging about a different political poster each day this week at Cato:

* Monday, “Socialism Would Mean Inspectors All Round,” 1929 British Conservative Party poster;

* Tuesday, “Come on, Dad! We’re going to vote Liberal,” 1929 British Liberal Party poster;

* Wednesday, “I Need Smokes,” World War One American poster;

* Thursday, Art Deco Prohibitionist traffic safety poster.

Update: and here’s Friday’s final installment, a contemporary freedom-of-the-press poster from Jordan.

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Nanny state roundup

by Walter Olson on February 12, 2014

  • Sock puppets: U.K. and E.U. governments both fund public advocacy campaigns on paternalism themes, effectively lobbying themselves at taxpayer expense. Sounds kinda familiar [Christopher Snowdon on Institute for Economic Affairs studies]
  • Federal government, in the form of the CDC, wishes your doctor would nag you more about your drinking [Jacob Sullum, more]
  • “$10m look into games and gun violence a bust” [Rob Beschizza; Mike Rose, Gamasutra; related, Scott Shackford]
  • Assumption of risk won a round at the California Supreme Court a year ago in a case on amusement park bumper cars [S.F. Chronicle, ABA Journal, related on Disneyland teacups] J.D. Tuccille on motorcycle risks [Reason]
  • As a country Australia is known for freedom, so why’s it a leader in enacting bans? [Vivienne Crompton, IPA "Freedom Watch"]
  • “Maine’s unwise and unconstitutional ban on disclosing the alcohol content of beers” [Jonathan Adler]
  • FDA mandate on removal of nicotine could benefit head regulator’s former client [Jacob Grier] Glaxo SmithKline, Johnson & Johnson also push bans on e-cigarettes, which compete with their nicotine therapies [Tim Carney] AGs from 24 states (AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, ME, MD, MS, MT, NH, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA) write FDA urging ban on menthol in cigarettes [CSPNet] “Cigarette Sin-Tax Hike Could Boost Black Markets” [Steven Greenhut] Brendan O’Neill on secondhand smoke [Reason]

Four U.S. Senators are hectoring the Golden Globe Awards over stars’ televised use of e-cigarettes. “We ask the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC Universal to take actions to ensure that future broadcasts of the Golden Globes do not intentionally feature images of e-cigarettes,” wrote the humorless bossyboots in question, Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), all Democrats. [Reuters] More: Sally Satel (“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything.”)

Speaking of glamor, don’t miss Virginia Postrel’s appearance at Cato next Wednesday to discuss her book The Power of Glamour: Persuasion, Longing, and Individual Aspiration. You can register here.

September 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2013

  • The bureaucracy in India brings Gilbert & Sullivan to life: “He has been corresponding with himself for the last 26 days as an officer wearing different hats.” [Deccan Chronicle via @tylercowen]
  • “Certificate of Need” laws: “You Shouldn’t Have to Ask Your Competitors for Permission to Start a Business” [Ilya Shapiro]
  • No massive shift to arbitration clauses in franchise world since SCOTUS rulings [Peter Rutledge and Christopher Drahozal via Alison Frankel; Andrew Trask]
  • Evergreen headline in slightly varying forms: “Anti-abuse group’s director quits after arrest in assault” [Sacramento Bee; related here, here, etc.]
  • Economic liberalization increases growth [Alex Tabarrok]
  • “With Auto Amber Alerts, We’re Opted In By Default To A ‘Little Brother’ Surveillance Society” [Kashmir Hill]
  • How Florida trial lawyers plan to crack the tobacco-verdict vault [Daniel Fisher]

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“The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for error; and those of the poor and lowly, for crimes.” (attributed to the Countess of Blessington) The main scientific reason (if it can be called that) cited by the Food and Drug Administration seems to be that adding menthol makes smoking more enjoyable to many users, leading to readier “initiation of the smoking habit.” [Atlantic Wire] In addition, the World Trade Organization ruled last year that it was an arbitrary trade restriction for the United States to have banned clove-flavored cigarettes of the sort formerly imported from Indonesia, as Congress did in the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, without also banning menthol-flavored cigarettes. [Jakarta Post]

More: Get ready for a huge boost to the already-thriving cigarette-smuggling business should the plan go through [ACSH] And from Arthur Caplan at Time: “Antismoking Advocates Have Misused Science.”

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Nanny state roundup

by Walter Olson on July 12, 2013

  • “Sneaky public-health messaging appears to be on the upswing across the country” [Baylen Linnekin, NY Post; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Scotland: “Parents warned they could face court for lighting up at home in front of kids” [The Sun] And Sweden: “Law professor calls for ban on parents drinking” (in presence of kids) [The Local via @FreeRangeKids]
  • Speaking of tobacco: “Former German Chancellor Stays One Step Ahead of European Nannies, Hoards Cigarettes” [Matthew Feeney on Helmut Schmidt]
  • Speaking of alcohol: ObamaCare slush fund bankrolling anti-booze advocacy in Pennsylvania [Mark Hemingway, earlier]
  • To fix the nation’s weight problem, socially discourage processed foods. Right? Wrong [David Freedman, Atlantic]
  • Mark Steyn on federal regulation requiring emergency bunny plan for magicians [NRO, more, earlier]
  • Run for your life! It’s a falling toilet seat! [Free-Range Kids]

Did you know that the Affordable Care Act creates an enormous, multi-billion-dollar slush fund — in the out years, it will raise $2 billion a year in perpetuity — for the federal government to spend on more or less anything that might “improve health and help restrain the rate of growth” of health-care costs? That the spending can bypass the Congressional appropriations process, and is rife with expenditures for the purposes of lobbying government itself, which is supposed to be an unlawful use of federal funds?

Somehow it didn’t sink in until I read this excellent investigation in Forbes by Stuart Taylor, Jr., the distinguished commentator and journalist now associated with the Brookings Institution. Because almost any cause arguably advances health, the administrators end up with close to unlimited discretion as to how to spend the money, which results in the usual array of goofy-sounding grant activities ranging “from ‘pickleball’ (a racquet sport) in Carteret County, N.C. to Zumba (a dance fitness program), kayaking and kickboxing in Waco, TX.”

It’s tailor-made for log-rolling and rewarding local friends, but the dangers go beyond that. In particular, as outraged Republicans from Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in the House to Susan Collins (R-Me.) in the Senate have been documenting, large sums from the program have been devoted to the purpose of lobbying for the passage of legislation at the local and state level — notwithstanding specific statutory language making that an unlawful way of spending money raised from federal taxpayers.

To quote Taylor:

* In Washington state, the Prevention Alliance, a coalition of health-focused groups, reported in notes of a June 22, 2012 meeting that the funding for its initial work came from a $3.3 million Obamacare grant to the state Department of Health. It listed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), “tobacco taxes,” and increasing “types of outdoor venues where tobacco use is prohibited” as among “the areas of greatest interest and potential for progress.”

* The Sierra Health Foundation, in Sacramento, which received a $500,000 grant. in March 2013, described its plans to “seek local zoning changes to disallow fast food establishments within 1,000 feet of a school and to limit the number of fast food outlets,” along with restrictions on fast food advertising. A $3 million grant to New York City was used to “educate leaders and decision makers about, and promote the effective implementation of. . . a tax to substantially increase the price of beverages containing caloric sweetener.”

* A Cook County, Ill. report says that part of a $16 million grant “educated policymakers on link between SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] and obesity, economic impact of an SSB tax, and importance of investing revenue into prevention.” More than $12 million in similar grants went to groups in King County, Wash. to push for changes in “zoning policies to locate fast-food retailers farther from . . . schools.” And Jefferson County, Ala., spent part of a $7 million federal grant promoting the passage of a tobacco excise tax by the state legislature.

These aren’t isolated flukes: they look very much like the normal and planned operation of the program. A $7 million grant to activists in the St. Louis area went in part toward lobbying for the repeal of a state law barring municipal tobacco taxes. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported on how it used a $1.5 million federal grant: “210 policy makers were contacted . . . 31 ordinances were passed . . . there were 26 community presentations made to local governments .. . and 16 additional ordinances were passed this quarter, for a cumulative total of 47.”

This is outrageous. Congress has enacted and reiterated the ban on lobbying with federal funds because of the obvious unfairness of requiring taxpaying citizens to support political efforts of which they disapprove. Now a combination of the most politicized sector of public health activism (which likes to dictate how people live) and a cross-section of the local political class (which likes to find new ways of raising taxes) is getting massive federal subsidies to pursue such lobbying, often on a scale that can bulldoze disorganized local opposition. If you were wondering why some bad new ideas for local legislation (e.g., zoning to keep fast-food restaurants out of big-city neighborhoods) seem to be everywhere despite a tepid level of voter enthusiasm, now you know. You’re paying for them to be everywhere.

I joined host Ray Dunaway on Hartford’s WTIC this morning to talk about the issue.

P.S. Thanks to commenter gitarcarver for pointing out this April report on the problem by the investigative group Cause of Action. (& David Catron, American Spectator)

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on May 19, 2013

  • After Gov. Martin O’Malley signs one of nation’s most restrictive gun laws, Beretta says it intends to move out of state [Guns.com]
  • Unfortunately, high cigarette taxes promote this sort of thing: “Ocean City cigarette smuggling ring had ties to terror groups, police say” [Baltimore Sun, Tax Foundation]
  • Responding to critics (such as), legislature caps the vessel excise tax in hopes of reviving ailing boating industry [Annapolis Gazette]
  • New law backed by O’Malley will require educators to pay dues to teachers’ union whether members or not [Trey Kovacs, Open Market and Workplace Choice; Harford County Dagger]
  • State has among nation’s highest per capita medical malpractice outlays, behind only five Northeastern states (NY, PA, NJ, MA, CT) and D.C. [Diederich analysis of annual payouts via TortsProf]
  • Chronicle of Rogues: Maryland gets a D minus, ranking a dismal 40th among the 50 states, on corruption-rating State Integrity Report Card [Center for Public Integrity via Tom Coale]
  • It’ll be held in D.C. this year rather than Annapolis, but that’s no reason you shouldn’t join us for the acclaimed Cato University [Jul. 28-Aug. 2]
  • Politicos scramble to defend “correctional officers’ bill of rights” after FBI affidavit blasts measure for helping entrench corruption at Baltimore jail [AP, earlier]

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“Young New Yorkers would not be able to buy cigarettes until they were 21, up from the current 18, under a proposal advanced [last month] by Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the city’s health commissioner, and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker.” [New York Times via J.D. Tuccille] Or at least would not be able to buy them legally: according to estimates from the Mackinac Institute, New York state already has the nation’s highest rate of smuggled cigarette consumption, at more than 60 percent of its total market. [Catherine Rampell, NYT; Mackinac; Tax Foundation; Christopher Snowdon, "The Wages of Sin Taxes" (CEI, PDF)]

More: As the legal drinking age has been pushed upward in recent years, the average age of first use of alcohol has fallen markedly [Tuccille]

April 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 20, 2013

  • “Victory For Blogger Patterico In Free Speech Case” [Ken at Popehat, earlier]
  • “Watch ‘disparate impact’ become the new HUD jihad if it succeeds in [Westchester]” [Jackson Jambalaya, earlier]
  • “Big Tobacco uses Big Government to keep out Small Competitors” [Tim Carney, DC Examiner]
  • Casinos or no, Connecticut tribes want the federal dole [AP]
  • High cost of litigation to California municipalities [L.A. Daily News, new CALA report in PDF] “San Francisco’s iconic cable cars cost city millions of dollars in legal settlements” [AP]
  • Morning sickness drug Bendectin, famed casualty of unfounded litigation, returns to market renamed diclegis [MedPageToday, David Bernstein; background here, etc.; classic account from Peter W. Huber's Galileo's Revenge] Another Bendectin sequel: Barry Nace, former ATLA/AAJ head, draws 120-day suspension from West Virginia high court [Chamber-backed WV Record]
  • “Tennessee’s ‘guns in parking lots’ bill a net drain on liberty [George Scoville; similarly Bainbridge and earlier] Another pro-gun but anti-liberty idea: Colorado lawmaker wants to force firms to hire guards if they deny armed customers access to their premises [KOAA, SecurityInfoWatch, Durango Herald (idea nixed in committee)]

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