According to a state study, only 6.9 percent of Florida kids under 18 are smoking cigarettes, the lowest level ever recorded. However, NOT a coincidence, 15.8 percent are now using e-cigs. That number is up from 5.4 percent in 2013.
This follows a similar trend all over the country in which the teen smoking rate has plummeted in the past five years; at the same time the teen vaping rate is skyrocketing. Kids are simply ditching cigarettes for a different nicotine delivery system, one that is easy to buy and ultimately cheaper than cigarettes. And studies show kids who vape are three times MORE likely to ultimately take up cigarettes, which makes total sense to me — they got the nicotine Jones already and they gotta keep getting their little nicotine fix somehow.
So, I consider it mixed news. Kids getting addicted to nicotine sucks no matter what the delivery system. This just adds more fuel to the fire to have the Food and Drug Administration crack down on e-cig marketing to teens. The agency was supposed to issue new regulations on e-cigs months ago, but for some reason is dragging its feet. In draft regulations released a year or two ago, the agency made no recommendations to control e-cig marketing and instead recommending simply banning e-cig sales to minors (which is already banned in most states — but kids can still easily buy e-cig products, especially online.).
From an article out of West Palm Beach, Florida:
The use of e-cigarettes, and this dramatic increase that we’re seeing among youth, threatens to normalize smoking again,” said Shannon Hughes, director of the Florida Health Department’s Community Health Promotion Division. “We have worked for decades to de-normalize smoking.”
RJ Reynolds, Lorillard and Philip Morris have reached a $100 million settlement of 400 Engle cases in Florida. I thought they might do this. I’ve been writing for months that, every way I cut it, it was in their interest to do this.
The Engle (named after Howard Engle, a smoker who died several years ago) cases came from a Florida Supreme Court decision throwing out a $145 billion class-action judgement against Big Tobacco for its years of lies and cover-ups over the dangers of smoking. However, while throwing those cases out, the state Supreme Court opened the way for individual plaintiffs to file separate lawsuits against Big Tobacco.
Since then, literally thousands of lawsuits have been filed in Florida and Big Tobacco has been losing about two-thirds of these cases, with hundreds of millions of judgements awarded in favour of over a hundred plaintiffs. Most of those judgements have been upheld on appeal.
Rather than go through at least another decade of losing these cases (not to mention all the legal fees), I figured sooner or later, Big Tobacco was simply going to settle.
This settlement involves 400 cases filed in federal court. That’s $250,000 per plaintiff. I’m guessing there’s going to be more settlements, because I believe there’s several thousand more lawsuits ongoing, and that a lot of them are in state courts. So this settlement may have solely been to deal with the federal cases. And in fact, the NBC story is careful to say “it’s the first settlement by Big Tobacco to settle a chunk of Engle cases.”
Under the agreement, Lorillard will pay $15 million, while RJR and Philip Morris will each pay $42.5 million. This settlement won’t affect cases that have already been settled.
Great news for these families devastated by smoking! I’ll be keeping an eye out for future Engle settlements in Florida.
This is yet another in a long line (literally thousands) of Engle Case lawsuits in Florida. The Engle case was a Supreme Court decision that overturned a $145 billion class-action judgement against Big Tobacco, while at the same time allowing individual lawsuits against various tobacco companies to be filed. This opened up a floodgate of lawsuits and jury awards in the hundreds of millions (perhaps even billions by now, I don’t know if anyone is keeping track.)
According to Wikipedia, the tobacco industry has lost 77 of the 116 Engle cases that have gone to trial so far.
This case is in Jacksonville and the plaintiff is a 64-year-old woman’s whose legs were amputated due to vascular disease caused by 40-plus years of smoking. The jury found the plaintiff, Donna Brown, 45 percent to blame and Philip Morris 55 percent to blame for lying about and covering up the dangers of smoking and awarded Brown $9 million in punitive damages and $8.3 million in compensatory damages.
From the article:
“The jury recognized that every person has a right not to be hurt by the careless, intentional misconduct of another, and Donna was hurt very badly by Philip Morris’ reckless and intentional misconduct,” attorney Nathan Finch said Friday.
Brown was a Marlboro smoker, but she also occasionally smoked Winstons, made by RJ Reynolds, which apparently reached a settlement with her.
The woman tried to quit several times, using Chantix, nicotine patches, nicotine gum, even a hypnotist, but nothing worked. She was not able to quit until she finally had a stroke in 2014 (Sounds like my mom, who kept smoking through cancer, heart attacks, chronic bronchities, etc., and only quit when she had a severe COPD episode.).
This case is one of the thousands of Engle cases winding their way through the Florida courts. R.J. Reynolds will appeal this verdict (oh, yes they will) but several of these verdicts have been upheld by appeals courts.
The Engle cases stem from a huge $145 billion class-action judgement in 2000. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned that settlement, but made an important decision to allow individual lawsuits against tobacco companies. Since then, several thousand lawsuits have been filed against tobacco companies, primarily Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Lorrilard, and judgements ranging between a few million to $23.6 billion have been handed down by juries (I believe that $23.6 billion judgement will get tossed on appeal as excessive … when I Googled it, Google asked me “do you mean $23.6 million?”).
According to the article:
Attorney Kenneth Byrd of the Nashville office of national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announced that a jury in federal court in Florida today returned a verdict of $41.1 million against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for conspiring for decades to conceal the hazards of smoking and the addictive nature of cigarettes. The jury award consists of $15.8 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amounts of $15.7 million against Philip Morris and $9.6 million against R.J. Reynolds.
“The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”
Interesting that was in federal court, I’m positive other Florida cases were in state courts.
This case is also a little unusual because most of these Engle cases at this point are being filed by relatives of people who died from lung cancer. This one was filed by the smoker, who is still alive and is suffering from COPD, not lung cancer. I believe that’s the first major judgement I’ve seen against a tobacco company for its role in giving a person COPD. I’m sure there’s been some, I just don’t remember ever coming across a story about it until now.
According to the article:
“At trial Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds sought to place all the blame on Mr. Kerrivan for becoming addicted to nicotine as a teenager in a time when the defendants widely marketed smoking cigarettes using celebrities and famous athletes and advertised on television shows popular with children and teenagers. Thankfully, the jury rejected this defense and held Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds accountable for their decision to target an entire generation of post-World War II American teenagers with a lifetime addiction to nicotine,” stated Mr. Byrd. “The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”
Wow, this is a big “wow.” A big wow that will likely get reduced upon appeal.
In one of the thousands of Engle liability cases in Florida, a jury awarded a settlement of $23.6 billion (yeah, billion) in favor of one of the 8,000 Engle plaintiffs. (The Engle decision was a Florida Supreme Court decision in 2006 overturning a $145 billion class action decision against Big Tobacco in favour of the plaintiffs. While the court upheld many of the merits of the case, it threw out the class action part of a lower court decision, meaning those 8,000 plaintiffs all have to sue individually.
So thousands of lawsuits in Florida have moved forward. This is by far the biggest jury judgement against R.J. Reynolds. The jury awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $23.6 billion in punitive damages (to punish R.J. Reynolds for lying and covering up the true dangers of their product and the addictive nature of nicotine.). That’s one case … versus $145 billion for 8,000 plaintiffs.
Unfortunately, that punitive damage amount is so outrageous, I can’t imagine it will stand up to appeal. As much as I think it sends a message to the tobacco industry from the jury that “Wow, we really think you lied your asses off,” I don’t think it necessarily does a lot of good to make judgements so huge that they can’t possibly hold up. The tobacco industry has not been successful lately, especially in Florida, in winning these Engle cases, but they have been successful in dragging out appeals indefinitely. An appeal will be automatic in this case over such a large sum of money.
Anyway, there are literally hundreds more of these cases in Florida, and the tobacco industry has been consistently losing them, which is ultimately a good thing. I think ultimately, all these judgements will force RJ and Philip Morris to eventually settle with the thousands of Engle plaintiffs for an amount that for the tobacco industry will still be the “cost of doing business.” Because, I figure even the tobacco industry has to get sick of constantly being in court all the time and constantly dealing with legal fees.
This is a continuation of the long-running Engle case in Florida.
Many years ago, a jury issued a $145 billion class action judgement against Big Tobacco for knowingly selling a toxic, addictive product to people, and then lying about it. This came to be known as the Engle case ($110 million settlement reached by Liggett Group in Engle case) , named after Howard Engle, one of the main plaintiffs. The Florida Supreme Court overturned that ruling several years ago, but made a subtle and very important ruling in favour of the plaintiffs that while they could not sue for class action damages, they could individually sue Big Tobacco for the effects of its lies and cover ups on them on their families.
Since then, there’s been literally hundreds of lawsuits filed against Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard and many judgements have been handed out in the millions of dolalrs.
R.J. Reynolds appealed a number of these judgements (RJR has always been the most aggressive company in fighting anti-tobacco court cases and laws), to the U.S. Supreme Court. The total amount of the judgements is about $70 million (the largest single judgement is $25 million). The U.S. Supreme Court categorically refused to hear their appeal, in effect letting the judgements stand.
So, another loss in the courts for Big Tobacco; this is not the area in which they’re going to win much anymore. There is simply too much documentation, much of it coming out through the discovery process in countless lawsuits over the years against Big Tobacco, of the industry’s lies, subterfuge and cover-ups. They were selling a poisonous product and were killing people and they knew it. The evidence is all there.
There are thousands of these cases that will be tied up in the courts in Florida for the next 10 to 20 years. Keep forcing those tobacco company to pay and keep forcing them to pour millions into their legal fees. (Passing on their costs to the consumers and encouraging more people to save money by quitting — seriously, one of the reasons cigarettes are so expensive today compared to 20 years ago is because of all the legal expenses and the $280 billion Master Settlement Agreement reached by Big Tobacco.).