Bill Hicks on smoking and Yul Brynner

bill hicks

Two great skits I found from Bill Hicks about smoking. I just kind of stumbled into these (mostly by looking at Yul Brynner’s famous commercial from the grave about smoking).

The first video is a short bit about Yul Brynner doing a commercial “from the grave” about the evils of smoking (Brynner died of lung cancer in his early 60s), and comparing that to health guru and jogger Jim Fixx, who died very young from a heart attack. Funny stuff.

And Yul Brynner’s original commercial in case you don’t remember it. (Lousy quality, I know).

Now, here is Bill Hicks’ bit on cigarette smoking and all the shit he caught as a smoker from non-smokers, especially assholes who coughed around him anytime he lit up.

“I think it’s kind of cruel to come up to me coughing at me … Jesus, do you go up to crippled people dancing, too, you fucks?”

And then assholes who give him crap about second-hand smoke.

“You know what, if I don’t smoke, there’s going to be secondary bullets coming your way, because I’m that tense…”

Interestingly, the person who posted this video had to disable comments because Bill Hicks died of cancer and people were leaving pissy comments about that.

These skits are obviously from the early 90s. Bill died in 1994. Wonder what he would think of smoking bans today?

OK, personally, I have always gone to great lengths to not give smokers a hard time. I hear about the [cough, cough] stuff and the glares, none of which I’ve ever done (OK, I have probably glared at smokers smoking around children, but that’s a little different.).

Anyway, at the risk of coming off like one of the do-gooder assholes Bill Hicks is making fun of, I couldn’t help but watch these videos with a sense of irony. Hicks, a chain smoker, died a very young man — only 32 — from pancreatic cancer, which is known to be one of the cancers caused by smoking.

In his skit, Bill says:

“I’ll smoke, I’ll cough, I’ll get the tumours. I’ll die. Deal?”

That line just jarred me. He did smoke, he did get tumours and he did die. At least he did it on his terms.

So, not passing judgement, not trying to be a self-righteous dick, just pointing out the irony. Which I’m sure at a certain level someone like Bill Hicks could appreciate. I still find his stuff really funny. Honestly, I never heard of Bill Hicks until well after he died — maybe 10 years ago I first started hearing about. He was a funny, funny guy. What a tragedy he lived such a short life. But, he lived it on his terms.

R.J. Reynolds quietly loses $37.5 million judgement


This story didn’t get as much attention as I would’ve have expected, I think because it’s actually becoming routine.

A jury last week awarded a family who lost their wife and mother to lung cancer in 1995 after years of smoking a $37.5 award from R.J. Reynolds.

This judgement is part of the old Engle Florida Supreme Court case. In that case, a huge class action settlement — $145 billion — was awarded to a number of smokers for the tobacco industry’s long and sordid history of lying about the addictiveness of nicotine and for marketing to kids.

The tobacco industry filed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court and the court threw the award out. At the time — 2006 — it appeared to be a big victory for Big Tobacco, but it was a mixed ruling. The Supreme Court threw out the award, but did allow each of the plaintiffs to file individual lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

That has turned out to be a big deal. There were a total of 8,000 individual lawsuits filed in Florida as a result of the ruling, so Big Tobacco is constantly in court in Florida, and repeatedly losing jury awards. $37.5 million won’t break RJR, but multiply $37.5 million by 8,000 — now you’re hurting the industry … big time. So far, $360 million damages have been awarded as a result of the Engle ruling — nowhere near the original $145 billion number, but hurting the industry nonetheless (You know the biggest reason cigarettes are more expensive now than 10 years ago? It’s not cigarette taxes, it’s legal costs.)

R..J Reynolds tried to use the old hoary defence of “it was her choice to smoke,” but that defence has failed time and again in these jury awards, for two reasons A) Big Tobacco was knowingly selling a toxic, poisonous and physically addictive product .. and lied for decades about the addictive nature of nicotine, and B) Because of the industry’s long and sordid history of marketing to teens (R.J. Reynolds are the guys who invented Joe Camel, remember.). It’s interesting reading a lot of the comments on this story about what BS the ruling is because it was her choice to smoke. No, they don’t get it. That defence doesn’t carry much weight with juries or judges, the fact is because they lied and covered up the dangers of their product, the tobacco industry is still liable for damages … “it was their choice to smoke” isn’t going to work. I tried making that point on that thread at HP; I got a few likes but no responses.

The woman who died in this case — Laura Grossman — was only 38 when she died of lung cancer in 1995.

R.J. Reynolds (which makes Philip Morris look like choir boys by comparison sometimes) also made the absolutely despicable defence that Grossman’s death was her husband’s fault because he didn’t do more to make her quit.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company has appealed the verdict, claiming that Grossman’s husband, Jan Grossman, should be held responsible for Laura’s death for “failing to change another person’s course of conduct.” As part of the court ruling, Grossman’s husband and two children were also awarded $15 million in compensatory damages.

That just shows how utterly venal these guys are, especially R.J. Reynolds.

R.J. Reynolds will definitely appeal, the company always does. And they might get the award reduced; Big Tobacco has had some success there, but not as often as in the past.

Casper smoking ban battle — petition drive fails after hundreds of signatures thrown out

Casper, Wyoming a few months ago implemented a smoking ban for all restaurants and bars.

Well, after only a few weeks, bar owners went to the city council and whined about the effect of the ban on their business and the city council, which had a couple of new members from when the ordinance was first approved, overturned the ban for bars .. again after a FEW WEEKS.

Well, a local group was not pleased with the city council caving and turned in a bunch of signatures to put the whole thing to referendum. Their petition fell 61 signatures short of being enough to put it on the ballot … BUT the city clerk rejected 685 signatures … out of about 3,200, making them fall short.

The group — Smokefree Natrona County — is now demanding a recount of those signatures. Sigh, this never seems to be easy (how do you throw out more than 20 percent of the signatures on the petition, anyway?)

Anyway, the city clerk is not required to do a recount, so the bar smoking ban in Casper might be dead for now (not sure what would stop them from doing another petition drive?).


Lawsuit filed over “smoke shacks” built by Great Falls bars, injunctions filed, groups formed, it’s a mess

This is a hell of a convoluted story. It’s too complicated to tell the whole story here, so I’ll sum up … It’s a city/county health department fighting the courts, owner of some Great Falls, Montana bars and a citizens’ group has gotten in the middle of it. It’s all over things called “smoke shacks.”

I only know of one bar locally that has one of these “smoke shacks” (Another one has some shelter in an alley behind the bar, but that’s different).

Under Montana law, bar owners could install a “smoke shack” in their bars. It’s usually a really small room, with a few video gambling machines, completely cut off from the rest of the bar. So, if you really want to smoke inside and play video poker or whatever, you kind of get shut off alone in these little rooms.

The owners of a bunch of casinos built these smoke shacks, but then received notices from the city and county that they were violating the state’s clean air act. The bar owners finally filed suit over it. The city and county health department requested an injunction against the smoking shelters and lost.

According this article, the judge ruled that the health department “took a ‘kaleidoscope of ever-shifting interpretations,’ concerning smoking structures in Cascade County, and that the board failed to adopt a coherent and logical interpretation of the Clean Indoor Air for bars and casinos in Cascade County.”

So… it gets more convoluted, because now a citizens’ group has gotten involved on the side of the city and the county, mad that these bars in Great Falls have found loopholes in the Clean Air act.

One of the strangest parts of this article is an interview with a former smoker/gambler:

Doug Richardson watched the tavern industry change from a gaming machine in the Palace Casino.

He was there before the law, when the law was implemented and today after the smoking shelters were built.

He smoked like any other gambler, until he was diagnosed with emphysema.

Now whenever he’s around smoke, whether it’s someone smoking a cigarette outside or if he’s near a backyard fire pit, his lungs act up and he has to use a rescue inhaler.

“These rooms have at least cured that as far as coming into places where people are smoking outside,” Richardson said. “They should build rooms like this. It takes the smoker away from people and into their own zone.”

Richardson was playing a game at the Palace Casino, adjacent to one of the Palagis’ smoke lounges, and he said on any given day the smoking room is full and there’s not a hint of smoke inside the main facility.

Whoa, the guy is dying of emphysema and he needs an inhaler if he’s around cigarette smoke, but I give him credit for being so tolerant toward smokers.

Anyway, it’s a big honkin legal mess … and headed to court, if not the State Legislature.

Personally, I’m not worked up about it too much, but it’s annoying to me when bars try to find these loopholes and just don’t deal with the fact that smoking bans are the future.