Q. Could you please explain the recent historic tobacco settlement?
A. Sure! Basically, the tobacco industry has admitted that it is killing people by the millions, and has agreed that from now on it will do this under the strict supervision of the federal government.
Q. Will there be monetary damages assessed?
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A. Yes. To compensate for the immense suffering caused by its products, the tobacco industry will pay huge sums of money to the group most directly affected.
Q. Will the federal government also receive large quantities of money?
A. Of course.
Q. How will the tobacco industry obtain this money?
A. By selling more tobacco products.
Q. What if consumers stop buying tobacco products?
A. That would be very bad. That would mess up the economics of the whole thing. The government would probably have to set up an emergency task force to figure out ways to get people smoking again in order to finance the historic tobacco settlement.
Q. You're kidding, right?
A. I'm not sure.
Q. Under this settlement, will potent new steps be taken to remind smokers that they should not smoke?
A. Yes. Cigarette packs will carry even sterner scientific warnings regarding the badness of smoking, such as ``YOU BIG DOODYHEAD!'' These warnings will no doubt have the same massive impact as all the previous warnings, causing many smokers to smack their foreheads and say: ``I had NO IDEA that smoking was unhealthy! I shall quit immediately!''
Q. Seriously, is there some kind of printed warning that really would make people stop buying cigarettes?
A. Yes. Sales would drop to zero overnight if the warning said: ``CIGARETTES CONTAIN FAT.'' American consumers have no problem with carcinogens, but they will not purchase any product, including floor wax, that has fat in it.
Q. If the government really wants people to stop smoking, how come it doesn't just make cigarettes illegal?
A. Because people would smoke them anyway.
Q. Then how come the government makes crack cocaine illegal?
A. That is an unfair comparison. The tobacco industry is merely selling a deadly product; the crack cocaine industry is guilty of something far, far worse.
Q. Failure to make large political donations?
Q. What does the historic tobacco settlement do to discourage adolescents from smoking?
A. It requires the parents of adolescents to put on giant pants, shave their heads and get their noses pierced, then smoke cigarettes in front of their kids while making statements such as: ``Smoking is cool, dude!'' This will cause the adolescents to join strict religious orders.
Q. What will be done regarding Joe Camel?
A. He will be spayed.
Q. How about Dennis Rodman?
A. Good idea.
Q. Many people started smoking because they watched classic movies in which glamorous Hollywood stars were always inhaling and exhaling vast clouds of smoke and looking totally cool. What will be done to correct this under the historic tobacco settlement?
A. By 1998, all classic movies will be digitally reprocessed by special Food and Drug Administration computers so that -- to cite one example -- in Casablanca , when Humphrey Bogart makes his dramatic final speech to Ingrid Bergman, he will have the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
Q. Whose voice will the late John Wayne have?
A. The late Lucille Ball's.
Q. Under the historic tobacco settlement, will cigarettes still be sold from vending machines?
A. Yes, but people purchasing cigarettes from such machines will also receive, as a warning of the health risks involved, a powerful electrical shock.
Q. What will happen to all the Tobacco Institute scientists, who, despite decades of dedicated research, were never able to find a single shred of evidence proving that cigarettes cause cancer?
A. At the request of the White House, they will be reassigned to the Whitewater investigation.
Q. Speaking of administration scandals, if President Clinton actually winds up in court over this Paula Jones thing, what steps will be taken to prevent the trial from turning into a grotesque and demeaning public spectacle?
A. Mr. Clinton's face will be covered at all times by an electronically superimposed dark blob, underneath which will be an electronic label identifying him only as ``A UNITED STATES PRESIDENT.''
Q. How will the historic tobacco settlement affect the aliens whose spaceship crashed near Roswell, N.M., in 1947, and whose bodies are now being kept in top-secret government freezers?
A. Millions of dollars will be paid to their lawyers.
Q. I guess that covers it! Thanks! Smoke?
A. I have my own.