Policy/Biz

Tobacco Companies Ordered to Publicly Admit to Lying About the Dangers of Smoking

smoking
Image REUTERS/USFDA/Handout

A federal judge has ordered tobacco companies to admit to having deliberately lied to the public about the health hazards of smoking.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington ruled that tobacco companies must publish on their products, in advertisements and on their websites saying that they intentionally deceived the public about the dangers and addictiveness of smoking.

Companies must confess to having lied to Americans about the dangers of smoking, disclose the harmful health effects and admit that their products were responsible for the death of 1,200 people a day in self-paid advertisements, according to the ruling.

Judge Kessler had previously said that she wanted the companies to pay for the corrective statements in various types of advertisements, but the latest ruling is the first time she's laid out what the statements will say.

According to the ruling each advertisement is to begin with a statement that says that the federal court has found that the defendant tobacco companies "deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking." After the statement, the corrective statement is to go on to say "here is the truth" before going into specifics on the health hazards of smoking, health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke, the addictiveness of nicotine and the industry's manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery.

Among the five categories of required statements, one states: Tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive." Other corrective statements read: "All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death," and "More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined."

The latest ruling comes after the companies were found in 2006 to be guilty of violating civil racketeering laws and for intentionally deceiving the American public about the dangers of smoking by conspiring to hide the risks of cigarettes.

Judge Kessler had previous ordered that tobacco companies to stop marketing cigarettes as "light" and "low-tar" and to make statements about the dangers of smoking in newspapers and magazines and on product packaging.

"This court has heeded its mandate to fashion corrective statements that are purely factual and uncontroversial and are directed at preventing and restraining the defendants from deceiving the American public in the future," Kessler said in the 55-page ruling.

The Tuesday ruling did not set a deadline for publication, and the types of media the companies must use to convey the corrective statements changed dramatically in the six years since her initial ruling in 2006, Kessler said.

Kessler ordered the tobacco companies and the Justice Department to meet beginning next month to discuss plans to implement the corrective statements, like whether they will be put in inserts with cigarette packs and on websites, TV and newspaper ads, and that those discussions are to conclude by March.

Loading...