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Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2002 / 5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

Giving new meaning to "selling your body" | "Let me get this straight. You're selling shares in your own body?"

"Precisely. If you buy shares in my body, I will guarantee a return of several million dollars, possibly billions, at some point in the future."

"You're going to have to explain."

"It's very simple. I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day. The statistics show I'm likely to get cancer or some other illness at some point. And then I'll have grounds to sue."

"Wait one minute. How can you sue later if you knew all along that smoking can kill you?"

"Ah, but a lifelong smoker in California did just that. The 64-year-old woman was just awarded $28 billion."

"That's billion with a B!"

"Yep! She started smoking at age 17. She knew it was bad for her. Her family and friends pleaded with her to stop, but she chose not to. She eventually got lung cancer, sued Phillip Morris and got a huge settlement."

"How did they arrive at $28 billion?"

"Juries are out to get tobacco companies. This jury voted 11-1 that punitive damages against Phillip Morris would be $1 million for each of the 28,000 people who die every year from lung cancer."

"Well, it is true that tobacco companies DID practice deceptive and misleading advertising many years ago, when this woman was young. They did some slippery things, but $28 billion!"

"Pretty cool, huh!"

"Hold on, mister. For the last three decades, the government has been all over tobacco firms. The truth about smoking has been made clear to everyone. That California woman might claim that deceptive advertising got her hooked, but you can't. How do you expect to win in court?"

"Like O.J. Simpson, I have a great deal of trust in our jury system. Besides, I have a contingency plan in the unlikely event that the tobacco strategy doesn't pan out."

"I can't wait to hear this."

"In addition to smoking, I now enjoy four or five meals a day at a variety of fast food restaurants. Did you know that those companies use lots of fat to make their products taste so good? I believe I'm becoming addicted to that fat."

"Oh, brother."

"And in between meals, I enjoy a multitude of snacks. The average American convenience store is loaded with them. There are the super-sized candy bars, the Big Grab bags of chips and a variety of high-fat dogs, burritos and other items that are delicious because the are so -"


"You're catching on, buddy. Well, because of this high-fat content that is thrust upon an unsuspecting public, more than 60% of Americans are obese. And obesity is the leading cause of heart disease, diabetes and many other health ailments."

"You poor helpless soul."

"Well, we can't smoke and eat excessively without drinking alcohol. Alcohol is also bad for one's health when taken in excess, and I have no choice but to drink in excess because alcohol is so -"



"Mister, whatever happened to the concept of taking responsibility for one's own actions? Everyone knows cigarettes are bad, so don't smoke or accept the consequences. Everyone knows fast food makes you fat, so eat in moderation or get fat. And everyone knows excess alcohol consumption is bad, so drink in moderation or risk poor health. Where is your common sense?"

"What does common sense have to do with anything! Look, the states sued tobacco companies because cigarette smoking made people ill, which drove up each state's health care expenses. Their case was simple: because tobacco companies sell products they know to be injurious to health, they, not the government, should bear the expense of health care made necessary by tobacco use."

"What is your point?"

"It didn't matter that every smoker who got ill did so by his or her own hand. Heck, lawsuits against fast food companies are already starting to happen. So how long will it be before my ill health results in massive punitive damages against them, too?"

"I hate to admit it, but your insane logic is becoming sound in an insane world."

"America is a great country, is it not! So, do you have any more questions about my strategy to sell shares in my body?"

"Just one. How much can I buy a share for?"

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© 2002, Tom Purcell