Cigarette consensus

By The West Virginia Record | Feb 12, 2010

In the 1938 Three Stooges comedy "Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb," Curly wins a radio contest sponsored by "Coffin Nail" cigarettes.

That was 72 years ago, but this candidly descriptive slang term for cigarettes dates back to the 1880s. Its usage reflects today's understanding, affirmed by cigarette pack warning labels, that smoking "may be hazardous to your health."

In short, it's been more than 120 years since anyone could plausibly claim ignorance of the health dangers of smoking.

Smoking cigarettes -- in large quantities, at least – is not good for you. But overeating and the overuse of liquor will kill you, too. Even imbibing too much water at one time can be deadly. Getting out of bed in the morning is a risk, but sloth even riskier.

If individuals choose to overindulge a habit known to be potentially unhealthy, they have no one but themselves to blame. This is common sense.

Unfortunately for trial lawyers seeking a big courtroom payday at the expense of cigarette manufacturers, there seems to be an overabundance of common sense in jury pools these days, and that could be hazardous to their bank accounts.

A West Virginia lawsuit against Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard has been postponed because lawyers couldn't secure enough "open-minded" jurors from a pool of 650. One prospective juror insisted that people have no right to sue over diseases listed on warning labels. She and 643 others were dismissed from the jury pool.

Circuit Judge Arthur Recht of Wheeling has rescheduled for June with a jury pool of 2,000. "It is a very polarizing issue," he lamented.

Actually, it doesn't seem polarizing at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. If 644 out 650 prospective jurors have made up their minds about the dangers of smoking, that would seem to be a consensus.

Maybe it's time to put an end to this farcical courtroom game that has lots to do with ginning up big fees for plaintiff's lawyers and little to do with making folks healthier.

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