Cartoonists Take Up Smoking Logo Square
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Lawsuits and Settlements

  • In 1994 the attorney general of Mississippi, Mike Moore, sued cigarette manufacturers to recover the Medicaid costs of caring for patients with smoking-related diseases. His counterparts in Florida, Texas, and Minnesota soon followed.
  • In 1998 the attorneys-general of the remaining 46 states entered into an agreement with the five largest cigarette makers. This Master Settlement Agreement included restrictions on cigarette advertising and promotion (such as an end to the use of billboards) and required the tobacco companies to make annual payments to the states totaling $206 billion through 2025.
  • Ironically, the more cigarettes that are sold, the more money accrues to the states; and only a small percentage of this revenue is earmarked for campaigns to reduce demand for tobacco products. Also in the mid-1990s, revelations by former cigarette company employees gave momentum to thousands of individual and class action lawsuits against the tobacco industry brought by the families of dead and dying smokers.
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The Florida Tobacco Lawsuit Settlement

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The Florida Tobacco Lawsuit Settlement

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The Florida Tobacco Lawsuit Settlement

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NBC Today

2000 07 15 Sun Sentinel Jury to Big Tobacco Pay 145 Billion 1

“JURY TO BIG TOBACCO: Pay $145 Billion”

The Lawsuit against the major cigarette manufacturers resulted in the largest amount of punitive damages awarded by a jury in United States history.

Front-page headline
The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
July 15, 2000

1943 Fleetwood Ad Jury Agrees on Better Tasting Cig 1

“That,” the jury said, “is your milder, better-tasting cigarette!”

Magazine advertisement By the Axton Fisher Tobacco Company for Fleetwood cigarettes

1998 11 15 BM News States Industry OK 206B Tobacco Settlement 1

“States, industry OK $206 billion tobacco settlement”

News article by Skip Wollenberg
The Birmingham News
November 15, 1998

2008 LCE Tobacco Settlement Funds Rarely Used to Fight Smoking 1

“Tobacco settlement funds rarely used to fight smoking”

News article by Steve LeBlanc and Julie Carr Smyth
The Light of the Coastal Empire (Savannah, Georgia)
November 21, 2008

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Babin Cartoon Were Through Talking 1

“We’re through talking…”

Rex Babin
The Sacramento Bee
Intended for publication in the Albany Times Union, but never published

Winner of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists’ Golden Spike Award for the best editorial cartoon “spiked” (rejected) by an editor

“One of the advantages of working in a graphic medium is being able to depict something like the horror of a tracheostomy, graphically.”

— Rex Babin

Bish Cartoon Cancer Victims RIP 1

“Here’s some flowers… I would have brought you cigarettes, but I just heard they’re bad for you.”

Randy Bish
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Circa 1997

“Years ago, a doctor gave a relative of mine a jar that held some of the residue that smoking had left in her lungs. That was not enough to scare her away from the habit, but it sure left an impression on me. My relative passed away shortly after that. I’ve never smoked, and I pray that my children never start.”

— Randy Bish

2005 07 31 LA Times Trudeau Cartoon Doonesbury 1

“Hi, Folks! Mr. Butts here. Why the happy face? Well, for five years Big Tobacco has looked on with envy as the administration has gotten into bed with Big Oil, Big Steel, Big Sugar and others! Hey, what about us, we wondered! We shouldn’t have! Last month our good friends at the Justice Department overruled their own lawyers, reducing a potential $150 billion industry settlement to a very affordable $14 billion. And here’s the beauty part–we don’t even have to negotiate!”

Garry Trudeau

“Doonesbury” comic strip
Los Angeles Times
July 31, 2005

Bok Cartoon Tobacco Deal Benefits 1

“Of course, you wouldn’t benefit from a tobacco deal. But, in addition to covering my legal fee, a sizable contribution would be made to a government entity in your name…provided you promise not to sue.”

Chip Bok

The Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio)
April 13, 1998

“My father is a retired family doctor who hates smoking and sees it as his right, and duty, to inform all who smoke that they will die. One of my best friends from childhood proved him right by dying of lung cancer at age 50.

“My dad’s attitude wasn’t just a professional opinion. He says his father set a great terrible example for smoking. It’s true. I’ve heard my grandfather’s morning hacking many times. He too succumbed to smoking related cancer.

“So, it’s not surprising that I hate smoking, too. Almost as much as I hate the sanctimonious anti-second-hand-smoking politicians and lawyers who compound the suffering of the poor wheezing smokers by squeezing them with ever higher cigarette taxes and price increases due to the huge settlements they’ve extorted from the tobacco companies in litigation. Now that the settlements have become a big part of state budgets, the anti-smoking pros have become virtual partners with the tobacco companies.”

— Chip Bok

Hulme Cartoon Gov. Bush Tobacco Settlement 1

“The State of Texas $15.3 billion dollars tobacco settlement”

Etta Hulme
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
April 12, 1998

“Governor Bush initially opposed suing the tobacco companies but became more enthusiastic about the money when the dollar signs appeared ($17.3 billion), after Attorney General Dan Morales got up his own posse and went after them anyway. Legal fees totaling more than $3 billion for Morales’ buddies upset Bush, but he still welcomed the money. Morales hoped to end up in the governor’s mansion but is serving time in prison instead for fraud. Only in Texas, or maybe Comedy Central.”

— Etta Hulme (1923-2014; Editorial cartoonist of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1972-2008)

Steiner Cartoon Lawyers Fee for Tobacco Deal 1

“Sure, my fee for the tobacco deal was $100 million, But I worked really hard.”

Peter Steiner
The Washington Times

Varvel Cartoon We Need Its Golden Eggs 1

“Stop! We need its golden eggs.”

Gary Varvel
The Indianapolis Star
July 13, 2000

“The reason for the wheezin’ is money. Our government is addicted to tobacco taxes and can’t break the habit. Usually it would ban any substance that is making people sick. Ah, but not at the expense of the goose that coughs up profits. It will be protected as long as it produces golden eggs.”

— Gary Varvel

Trever Cartoon Dept. of Justice Crocodile 1

“If it please the court, your honor. We’re suing to reclaim the billions of dollars we’ve been forced to spend to treat the unfortunate victims of the tobacco profiteers…”

John Trever
The Albuquerque Journal
September 24, 1999

Reddick Cartoon 206 Billion Tobacco Settlement 1

“So why do I feel like I’m making a second-hand deal?”

David Reddick
The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Indiana)

Pett Cartoon Tobacco Settlement Community Service 1


Joel Pett
The Lexington Herald-Leader (Kentucky)
July 23, 2000

Draughon Cartoon Big Tobacco Bomb 1

“BIG TOBACCO, INC. Timebomb”

Dennis Draughon
Scranton Times (Pennsylvania)
March 25, 1996

“I started my career in Raleigh, N.C. at the tender age of twenty-five, taking up Camel Lights a few times a day to keep company with my girlfriend of the time. In short order I was promoted to a pack-a-day habit that alternated between Camel Lights, Marlboro Reds, and Dunhills. After a few years, I tried to develop a unique style by rolling my own, favoring Three Castles brand tobacco. The pressures of a daily deadline soon forced me out of this leisurely pace and back into the arms of Reynolds and Philip Morris production methods. I moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1990 and continued my long association with pre-packaged tobacco products until the first of many unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking. In order to cut down my intake, I went back to rolling my own, this time switching to a down-market brand, Drum tobacco. After a short but intense career of almost ten years, I finally went cold turkey during my wife’s first pregnancy. Quitting was one of the most difficult career moves I ever had to make and is one accomplishment of which I am most proud. Even though I’ve been smoke-free for the past seven years and have become one of those ex-smokers that occasionally nags current users about the evils of addiction to nicotine, I continue to draw editorial cartoons for the Scranton Times.”

— Dennis Draughon

1998 Thompson Cartoon Gee No Kiddin edited 1

“Gee, no Kiddin’?!”
“Verdict: Smoking causes illness, tobacco companies lie!”
“Grass is green!”
“The sky is blue!”

Mike Thompson
The Detroit Free Press

“This cartoon was drawn in response to health studies that linked smoking to illness. I was struck by the fact that it has taken decades to publicly acknowledge what everyone has known for years: smoking kills. I’m amazed that the tobacco companies continued to deny a link for decades, long after the health hazards of smoking were well known. I’m even more amazed that they got away with their absurd denials and that Congress bought into this deadly public ruse. It’s a textbook example of how money distorts our political process. In this case, the distortion had deadly results.”

— Mike Thompson

Boyd Cartoon Tobacco Deal Should Make Teen Smoking Unacceptable 1

“The focus of the tobacco deal is to make teen smoking totally unacceptable!”

Bentley Boyd
The Daily Press (Williamsburg, Virginia)
July 1997

Rogers Cartoon States Joe Camel in Bed 1

“Leave the money on the dresser”

Rob Rogers
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
November 25, 1998

“My relationship with tobacco began when I was a child. No, I didn’t start smoking at six. My father happens to be a physician specializing in pulmonary medicine. He enlisted me to draw cartoons of people smoking or hooked up to lung machines. During one creative period I even drew Snoopy with a bronchoscope coming out of his giant beagle nose. My first paying job in cartooning consisted of a series of colored drawings about the hazards of smoking to illustrate a hospital study. As you can see, it has continued to be a topic of interest to me.”

— Rob Rogers

Fell Cartoon 21 Million Settlement 1

“Lock and load!”

Paul Fell
The Lincoln Journal Star (Nebraska)

Cole Cartoon Car Wreck Settlement 1

“Now, Officer, I’m sure we can find a way to keep this little matter out of the courts…”

John Cole
The Herald-Sun (Durham, North Carolina)
Circa 1997-1998

“Let me just say, as a former smoker, that putting away the ‘nicky sticks’ was one the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The Surgeon General’s report was well known by the time I picked up the habit in the mid-’70s, but regarded lightly or with outright hostility in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. My father, a surgeon and long-reformed smoker, warned me about tobacco’s dangers. But, hell, I was 18 years old and bullet-proof. Now 46, I’m lucky to still have my health.

“My advice to any prospective young smokers out there: don’t.”

— John Cole

Luckovich Cartoon Lawsuits Up the Wazoo 1

“Bad news. It’s spread. You now have lawsuits up the wazoo.”

Mike Luckovich
The Atlanta Constitution

Daniel Cartoon Fight the Tobacco Giant 1

Charlie Daniel
The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Circa 1997-1998

“Tennessee declined to join in on the states’ lawsuit against the tobacco companies, but was more than happy to cash in on the settlement money.”

— Charlie Daniel

Larrick Cartoon Placebo Cig 1


Jim Larrick
The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

“We would never intentionally expose our children to plague, but we’ve taught them to smoke cigarettes. Now we’re spending literally billions of dollars trying to undo the harm, but a walk across any college campus or a visit to the back fence of any school yard shows precisely how effective our efforts have been.”

— Jim Larrick

Kal Cartoon Tobacco Companies Respond to FL Lawsuit 1


Kevin Kallaugher
The Baltimore Sun
July 20, 2000

“I really want to comment on this cartoon, but after consulting with my lawyer, I decline.”

— Kevin Kallaugher

Heller Cartoon 145000000000 1

“145,000,000,000 [smoke rings]”

Joe Heller
The Green Bay Press-Gazette (Wisconsin)

Fitzsimmons Cartoon Partys Over Dirtbag 1

“Party’s over, dirtbag!!”

David Fitzsimmons
The Arizona Daily Star
July 23, 2000

“My mother and my father died within a month of each other because of their inability to overcome their addiction to cigarettes. I understand, firsthand, the impact of tobacco on the lives of people.”

— David Fitzsimmons

Luckovich Cartoon Lying Causes Huge Jury Verdicts 2

“If I’d known lying causes huge jury verdicts, I woulda quit years ago”

Mike Luckovich
The Atlanta Constitution

Fiore Cartoon Have a Heart 1

“Have a heart!”

Mark Fiore
July 17, 2000

“I drew this cartoon back when the tobacco companies were whining about the size of the settlements and damage awards they were going to have to pay out. It struck me as absurd that they were complaining about their pain in the face of all the pain that smoking causes in the world. This issue is particularly close to my heart since my grandma died of lung cancer.”

— Mark Fiore

Ritter Cartoon Tobacco Settlement for Children 1


Mike Ritter
Tribune Newspapers, Phoenix, Arizona

“‘It’s for the children.’ That’s what the attorneys-general hid behind to make themselves sound noble. It’s really a money-generating machine for lawyers. What public policy value these lawyers have is beyond me.”

“Smoking is a horrible thing. I hate it. My grandma died from it. But unless we’re heading for Prohibition, I don’t get the end-game.”

— Mike Ritter

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