Big Tobacco Takes It to the People

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Steven Goldstone is one angry CEO. The head of R.J. Reynolds, who earlier this month heralded the end of Big Tobacco's agreement with Congress, announced Friday that he's through talking to Washington altogether. "My discussions now are going to be with the American people." To kick off this crusade, Goldstone made his comments to an entirely representative audience -- of New York financial analysts.

What the man behind Joe Camel meant, perhaps, was discussions with American people who happen to be tobacco farmers. R.J. Reynolds and four other cigarette manufacturers held a closed-door meeting on the settlement Thursday with 120 growers from across the Southeast. Ordinary folk in the region haven't been forgotten: They've been saturated with TV commercials telling them why Senator McCain's tobacco bill is bad for the country. Since Goldstone and his counterparts saved a potential $500 billion by welshing on the deal, it seems they can afford to make such "discussions" a little one-sided.