Tobacco and the Rule of Law
• deny funding for the Justice Department's suit against cigarette makers, • enact, under the Commerce Clause, legislation that abrogates the multistate tobacco settlement, and • deregulate the growing of tobacco and the manufacture and advertising of tobacco products.
Ten months after tobacco companies and 46 state attorneys general settled their differences for a quarter of a trillion dollars, the U.S. Department of Justice decided that it wanted a share of the plunder. DOJ's complaint alleges that cigarette companies have conspired since the 1950s to defraud the American public and conceal information about the effects of smoking. Specifically, the government contends that industry executives knowingly made false and misleading statements about whether smoking causes disease and whether nicotine is addictive.
On the one hand, DOJ promotes its novel lawsuit to recapture health care outlays for smoking-related diseases. On the other hand, the same watchdog agency stands idly by while tobacco companies and state attorneys general team up to violate the antitrust laws. The multistate tobacco settlement, a cunning and deceitful bargain between the industry and the states, allows the tobacco giants to monopolize cigarette sales and foist the cost onto luckless smokers.
Congress can take affirmative steps to counteract those abuses of executive power: first, by denying funds for DOJ's suit and, second, by enacting legislation that abrogates the multistate tobacco settlement. At the same time, Congress should deregulate tobacco farming and the advertising of tobacco products and reject any attempt to regulate tobacco as a drug.