US Judge Orders Cigarette Companies To Publicly Admit They Lied About Smoking Dangers
November 28, 2012

US Judge Orders Cigarette Companies To Publicly Admit They Lied About Smoking Dangers

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that an estimated 45.3 million adults in the US smoke cigarettes. It also reports that cigarettes, the single leading cause of preventable death in the US, account for nearly 443,000 deaths every year.

Now, a US judge is ordering the top three cigarette makers–Philip Morris, Reynolds and Lorillard–to publicly admit that their products are killing America. The judge said these companies must advertise that they had “deliberately deceived” Americans about the health dangers of smoking and publicly state that they are responsible for 1,200 deaths every day and that secondhand smoke kills more than 3,000 people a year in the United States.

Federal Judge Gladys Kessler, who issued the ruling on Tuesday, wrote that the new ad campaign would be an appropriate counter measure to the companies´ deceptive acts that have gone on for nearly the past 5 decades. The ruling, which follows a 13+ year battle against the tobacco giants, is the harshest sanction brought against the company to date. Kessler said the ads must be published in various media outlets for up to two years.

"By ensuring that consumers know that [tobacco companies] have misled the public in the past on the issue of secondhand smoke in addition to putting forth the fact that a scientific consensus on this subject exists, defendants will be less likely to attempt to argue in the future that such a consensus does not exist," Kessler said during the ruling.

The ruling aims to finalize the wording of five different statements the companies must use in their ads. The original statements were penned in lieu of a 2006 hearing in which Kessler found that the cigarette tzars violated racketeering laws.

She ordered “corrective statements” on five topics: "the adverse health effects of smoking; the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; the lack of any significant health benefit from smoking 'low tar,' 'light,' 'ultralight,' 'mild,' and 'natural,' cigarettes; Defendants' manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery; and the adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke."

Each of the five statements must begin with a “preamble” briefly explaining the court ruling; the companies must make the statement and then declare: “Here is the truth.”

In the statement on adverse health effects of smoking, the companies must claim that 1,200 Americans are killed every day from smoking and that more people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, accidents and alcohol combined. They must also admit that smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, leukemia and cancer. They will also have to admit that smoking causes reduced fertility and low birth weight.

In the statement on addictiveness, the cigarette companies must admit that smoking is highly addictive and that nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco. They must also claim they intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction. They also must show that nicotine changes the brain, making it difficult to quit smoking.

The third statement deals with a lack of health benefits with smoking cigarettes labeled as “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild,” or “natural.” The truth here is that smokers switch to low tar or light cigarettes because they think they are less harmful to them; the companies must admit they these alternatives are not less harmful, and contain virtually the same amount of tar and nicotine as regular cigarettes. They must admit that all cigarettes cause cancer and that no cigarette is safe.

The next statement deals with manipulation of cigarette design and composition. The companies must clearly state they intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive, largely by designing filters and papers that maximize the ingestion of nicotine, and adding ammonia to lessen the harsh taste of nicotine.

The final statement deals with the adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke. The companies must admit that secondhand smoke kills more than 3,000 Americans every year and that it causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke. They must also claim that secondhand smoke can lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and a number of other infections and illnesses. They must admit there is also no safe level of secondhand smoke.

A full write-up of the mandatory statements can be found here.

The judge´s ruling was applauded by health advocates and anti-tobacco groups across the board.

"Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-tobacco group in Washington.

"These statements do exactly what they should do. They're clear, to the point, easy to understand, no legalese, no scientific jargon, just the facts," said Ellen Vargyas, general counsel for the American Legacy Foundation.

It isn´t clear yet if Philip Morris, Reynolds and/or Lorillard will appeal the Judge´s ruling, but the companies have fought in the past to keep words such as “deceived” out of their statements, citing concern for their rights of free speech.

The cigarette makers won a similar battle in August when a federal appeals court rejected the government´s mandate to order tobacco companies to place graphic images on their products warning of the dangers of smoking. The rejection came as a majority of the judges on the appeal panel said the images were a violation of free speech.

In regards to the current case, Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for Reynolds, told Reuters the company is “reviewing the judge´s ruling and considering next steps.”

A spokesman for Philip Morris also said the decision was being reviewed by company execs.