There is great irony in the fact that cigarette makers, after having resisted for years the placing of mandatory warnings on their products, now seek to use those very labels to escape liability for the immense damage that smoking causes.
Monday the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the presence of the warning, first put on cigarette packages 25 years ago, sufficiently forewarns smokers that they are endangering their lives by smoking.
It is a difficult question, to be sure. It seems reasonable that in today's climate, if a reasonably well-informed adult chooses to begin smoking, then that person can hardly hold the cigarette manufacturer responsible for any resulting damage to his or her health. But when a kid starts smoking at the age of 14 and, by the time he or she is an adult, is hopelessly hooked on what former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called "the most addictive drug" of nicotine, that's another matter again. Surely the cigarette makers have some responsibility to such a person.