At Liberty Law Blog:
I am no friend to smoking, therefore; but even I feel a certain unease about the zealotry of the anti-smokers. The problem is that, in the modern world (though perhaps it was always so), a good cause is turned into rent-seeking, and generally into rent-finding as well.
Examination of the legal proceedings in the United States against the tobacco companies persuaded me that the real tort in the case was, in effect, the transfer of the profits of the tobacco companies from the shareholders to the trial lawyers. The last thing that anyone wanted to do was drive the milch-cow, the tobacco companies, into bankruptcy, or simply to close them down so that they could be sued no more. Governments, which had been deriving large revenues from the tobacco companies’ products for many years in spite of knowledge of the effects of smoking, were at least as responsible for any harm done by tobacco as the companies. No doubt the tobacco companies lied in a disgraceful fashion about the harmfulness of their products, but I have never met anyone who believed their lies; and although no longer young, I grew up knowing that smoking was bad for you in the same way that I knew that the world was round and the Battle of Hastings was in 1066. As to the supposed impossibility of giving up smoking once started because of the addictiveness of nicotine, this was clearly nonsense; what millions of people (including my mother) have done cannot be impossible.
And where there are rents to be found, lawyers will be there to take our cut.