Court Ruling Against Big Tobacco - Consumer Justice Foundation

Court Ruling Against Big Tobacco

Written by Faith Anderson on November 28, 2012
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Tobacco Companies Concealed Health Risks of Smoking

The required advertisements are part of a case brought by the government in 1999 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. In 2006, Kessler ruled in that case that the largest cigarette makers in the United States concealed the dangers of smoking for decades, and indicated that she wanted the tobacco industry to pay for “corrective statements” in both print and broadcast ads. The Justice Department then proposed specific statements, which Kessler used as the basis for some of the ones she ordered in her ruling on Tuesday. Needless to say, the tobacco companies weren’t pleased with the government’s proposed corrective statements, calling them “forced public confessions.” They also said the statements were designed to “shame and humiliate” the companies, arguing that the statements should include instead the health effects and addictive qualities of smoking.

Big Tobacco Accused of Fraud and Deceit

“This court made a number of explicit findings that the tobacco companies perpetuated fraud and deceived the public regarding the addictiveness of cigarettes and nicotine,” Kessler wrote in her ruling. In response to these findings, Kessler chose statements that reflect the following five categories: addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; adverse health effects of smoking; manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery; lack of significant health benefit from smoking cigarettes marked as “low tar,” “light,” etc.; and adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke. For their part, major tobacco companies like Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. say they are reviewing the court’s decision and considering their next steps.

Court Ruling Important in Case Against Tobacco Companies

“The most critical part of the ruling is that it requires the tobacco companies to state clearly that the court found that they deceived the American public and that they are telling the truth now only because the court is ordering them to do so,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This isn’t the last word, but this is a vitally important step because this should resolve exactly what the tobacco companies are required to say.” In her ruling on Tuesday, Kessler ordered the tobacco companies and Justice Department to meet beginning next month to decide how to go about implementing the corrective statements, including whether they will be used in cigarette pack inserts, on website, and in newspaper and TV ads.

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