FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2005
Contact Audrey Silk, NYC C.L.A.S.H., (917) 888-9317
SMOKERS' RIGHTS GROUP PLEADS WITH COURT TO BE HEARD
IN CASE OF U.S.A. v. PHILIP MORRIS, ET AL
NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.) is an organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and protecting the interests of adults who choose to smoke cigarettes. It is comprised of citizens from all over the country who have bonded together in the common conviction that smokers have been scapegoated: unmercifully demonized and financially punished by legislatures and-- relevant here-- by courts where they have never been granted the right to be heard or to defend their patent interests. Clearly, this pertains to the case now at hand: U.S.A. v. Philip Morris, et al.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice decided to reduce the "remedies" it had originally sought in their case against Big Tobacco. The anti-smoking special interest groups (aka "Public Health Intervenors") -- beneficiaries who had expected their pockets to be filled more deeply -- went ballistic and were granted permission to intervene. Their complaint was that the DOJ was "no longer adequately representing" their interests. And they proceeded to submit their own list of "remedies."
This was the proverbial "straw" and on September 28th NYC C.L.A.S.H. delivered a letter to the presiding judge, the honorable Gladys Kessler, pleading for equal judicial protection. We asked, "Who's looking out for us??"
It's our basic contention that smokers and their rights, and most notably their money, have merely been used as wampum in a series of contentious legal transactions between two third parties: the anti-tobacco crusaders and the tobacco manufacturers. Whatever "crimes" tobacco manufacturers are accused of (whether rightly or wrongly so) were not, in any case, committed by us, yet the legal "remedies" have always included judgments causing us to pay the fines.
We have paid them directly, in the form of inflated cigarette prices whose pass-along to us has been mandated by "settlements" between the warring third parties, and we've paid them indirectly in the loss of our moral and civic standing and an assault on our very autonomy as adults. Through the medium of legal judgements and settlements, we've been forced to help finance ads and propaganda that go against our own interests.
Among several of the "remedies" that stand out, one is that smokers will also be paying for the ad campaigns proposed – and, if adopted, overseen – by the Intervenors who proposed them. Historically, the kind of campaigns they support don’t stop at “education” about the health risks of smoking. These ads are designed to promote hatred of smokers and to demean them as human beings. And unfortunately, these ads have succeeded in those goals! As the Intervenors know, cigarettes don’t smoke themselves. People smoke them. So in order to promote their campaign against smoking they willfully and knowingly attack and vilify the smokers. Their stated goal here is to “denormalize” smokers, and to paint them as “socially unacceptable” members of society.
Enraged at the prospect of having to pay for more of these ads, NYC C.L.A.S.H. founder Audrey Silk fumes, "We should not be forced to subsidize speech that attacks and demeans us."
"There is no question that the cost of any judgement awarded -- and the programs it funds -- will once again be paid by the smoker. The Master Settlement Agreement is a monument to that," says Silk.
We contest the entire case on monetary and social grounds as it pertains to our interests. In addition to the above, there are several proposed "remedies" in particular that we address in more detail in our letter.
The letter is available HERE