Attorney General's Veracity

Janet Reno said yesterday, while filing suit against the tobacco companies, that 400,000 people die every year from smoking. I find that a little hard to believe. Does anyone have the Straight Dope?

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

Who needs cites when smoking is so reviled that the anti-smokers will believe anything about the dangers of cigarrette smoke?

Yer pal,

I think we’ve learned by now that the title of this thread is a contradiction-in-terms.
Enough said.

I think we’ve learned by now that the title of this thread is a contradiction-in-terms.
Enough said.

oops…my connection was lost right as I submitted. Sorry for the double posting… Feel free to delete it.–Nick?

Obviously, smoking DOES cause cancer and a host of other diseases. The tobacco execs who claim otherwise are lying sacks of manure. And yet…

Are we supposed to believe that Janet Reno and the state Attorneys General just recently realized that smoking is bad? Of course not! The Federal government, and all the state governments, have known for 35 years that smoking kills people. SO, what did they DO about it? Did they outlaw smoking? Did they ever once even TRY to outlaw smoking?

No! Quite the contrary! The Federal government has continued to subsidize tobacco farmers lavishly. They’ve continued to help tobacco companies market their products overseas. And they’ve made (putting on my Carl Sagan voice) “billions and billions” of dollars by taxing the stuff.
That makes Janet Reno and all other AGs a bunch of contemptible hypocrites… to use the cliche, it’s like the scene in “Casablanca” where Claude Rains announcles tha he is SHOCKed to find gambling going on at Rick’s Place (even as he pockets his winnings).

What makes the whole thing more absurd is that Janet Reno’s bosses are a smoker (Bill Clinton) and a millionaire tobacco farmer (Al GOre). Wonder if anybody will sue AL!!! It would serve the phony creep right.


I don’t think anyone denies the harm that tobacco causes. I believe the commentary was the number Ms. Reno used and how she came up with this figure.

I notice you did not add anything to this discussion. If you wish to start an anti-smoking thread, feel free to NOT, since there already is a rather lengthy one in The Pit already.

Correct, Satan. As to the OP… it’s yet another case of paying attention to the man behind the curtain (pun ?), when the Great & Mighty Oz (in this case, AG Reno, but it could be any politician, public official, lawyer, journalist, ad infinitum) calls upon the dark art of Statistics - aka lying - without the appropriate set-up and context to make it believable. Just like a second-rate prestidigitator…

E.G.: Hurricane Floyd caused 800 million in damge to No.Carolina; smoking causes 40 million (made that up) or whatever of health care costs in NC; mosaic virus causes 20 million of crop loss in NC, etc, etc. The total adds up to show that losses in NC exceed the GNP of the US and Japan combined…

My WAG is the figure comes from totals of lung cancer and heart disease death to which smoking was a contributing factor.

Check out “Harper’s Index” for the juxtaposition of statistics that didn’t appear together, but are clarified when presented jointly.

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

  • T.Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

I’m sure you can come up with any number you want for people killed per year by smoking. It just depends on how much complicity you want to require of tobacco in the deaths of those persons you count. And the more more people live longer, if they ever smoked, the more you can include smoking as what killed them at 104. . .instead of 105.

Ray (Never smoked. Well, a handful of joints doesn’t count.)

Did a quick scan of CDC stats for all deaths in the US for the year of 1997 (latest data)

Got the info here.

According to my quick (and rather sloppy) run of the numbers, the 400,000 mark does indeed seem high. If I did the math right, and indeed if these are even the right stats to be looking at, the Reno numbers would account for between 1/5 and 1/4 of all deaths in the country. These included all major causes including accidental death and suicide.

Anyway I hope the link helps steer you to the data you need.

Satan, Satan, Satan…

First of all, my comments were far from irrelevant to this discussion (though if pointless, stupid, meaningless, irrelevant commentary disqualified one from posting messages here, you ought to take a hike forever).

Second, my point was not that smoking is bad- everybody already KNOWS that, after all. My point is that, regardless of how dangerous smoking is, and even IF tobacco kills 400,00+ people each year, the federal government has absolutely ZERO moral standing to go after the tobacco industry. The federal government has subsidized tobacco heavily, and profited handsomely from taxing tobacco. It’s rather absurd for the federal government to sue people they’ve been in bed with for a century.

astorian, astorian, astorian…

First of all, I believe my posting record speaks for itself. I may be a smart-ass, but that’s better than being a dumb-ass now isn’t it?

Read the OP, please. Now, if you want to start a thread about government hypocrisy about this (or any other) issue, feel free. In the meantime, this thread should be about oranges, and you posted apples.

Both are fruits, but that’s the extent of it…

Does Reno overtly support tobacco subsidies? Or is this “support by association”, i.e., being a Federal employee means she must support everything the Federal government does?

I don’t understand why tobacco excise taxes are an example of how the Federal government favors the tobacco industry. Usually, these taxes are justified on the grounds that tobacco has associated health risks, just like taxes on liquor and gasoline. Sure, the government “benefits” from collecting taxes, just as it “suffers” by having to care for people with damaged lungs in VA hospitals, etc.

Isn’t a subsidy the opposite of a tax? How can taxing and subsidizing be used as an example of the same thing? Big tobacco likes the subsidies and hates the taxes. I hate the subsidies and like the taxes. What they are really an example of, is not government loving big tobacco, but rather, of fiscal policy-making being fragmented between separate Congressional committees which work at cross purposes. None of which takes orders from the Attorney General.

I read somewhere (good opening huh?) that the cost of caring for smokers was more or less offset by the savings garnered from not caring for those who died prematurely from smoking. Medicare, VA, etc., pay for the health care for the (so-far) survivors but save big bucks when they don’t live as long as non-smokers. Don’t know if it’s true or not but it seems to me if we are going to reduce this to dollars in vs. dollars out we ought to consider it.

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

Yeah, I heard the same thing too. If it is true, then justifications for the lawsuits can’t come from strictly fiscal considerations. They would have to make the case that the damages were punitive / retribution for pain and suffering. In any case, I’m not buying any tobacco stocks from now on…

>>Janet Reno said yesterday, while filing suit against the tobacco companies, that 400,000 people die every year from smoking. I find that a little hard to believe.

According to the tobacco company rep I just spoke with, those were 400,000 unrelated cases of people who were going to die of lung/throat cancer and heart disease anyway.

My opinion is that that she’s playing fast and loose with the numbers. You don’t die directly from smoking, you die of diseases related to smoking. With lung & throat cancer its fairly safe to assume that it was from smoking. But heart disease? Most of the smokers I’ve met aren’t health food nuts. But without her revealing the source for her numbers, these are all WAGs.