Tobacco companies are a step closer Friday to putting out "corrective
statements" about their history of defrauding the American public by
hiding the dangers of smoking, according to an agreement reached Friday with the Department of Justice.
agreement was reached the day before the 50th anniversary of the
Surgeon General warning on tobacco and lung cancer, released Jan. 11,
The long-awaited advertising campaign
was ordered in 2006 by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, who
found tobacco companies guilty of violating civil racketeering laws and
lying to the public about the dangers of smoking and their marketing to
children. Kessler must approve the agreement.
That verdict was the
culmination of a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice in 1999,
when it sued tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Kessler made five key "findings
of fact," detailing how tobacco makers defrauded the public, including
lying about the health damage caused by smoking; the addictive nature of
nicotine; their marketing and promotion of "low tar" and "light"
cigarettes as healthier when there are no clear health benefits;
designing tobacco products to be as addictive as possible; and engaging
in a massive effort to hide the dangers of secondhand smoke. The
corrective statements must address each of these five areas.
found that the RICO statute did not allow for monetary damages. But she
did order tobacco companies to make "corrective statements" about their
history of fraud.
According to the agreement, the campaign will
include online and full-page print ads in the Sunday editions of the top
35 newspapers in the country, including USA TODAY, as well as
prime-time TV spots on the three major networks for one year. The
corrective statements also must be attached to packages of cigarettes in
what marketers call an "outsert."
Brian May, a spokesman for
Atria, the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris USA, said he
had no comment. Other tobacco companies could not be reached
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has
rejected two industry appeals. Tobacco companies are still suing over
Kessler's order to include the corrective statements in "point of sale"
displays at retail stores.
In a statement, leading anti-smoking
groups said, "Tobacco companies have filed time-consuming appeals at
every stage . . . We urge them to end their delay tactics and finally
tell the truth." The statement was signed by the Tobacco-Free Kids
Action Fund, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart
Association, the American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers'
Rights and the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network. The
groups joined the case as intervenors in 2005.
statements "are necessary reminders that tobacco's devastating toll over
the past 50-plus years is no accident," the group statement says. "It
stems directly from the tobacco industry's deceptive and even illegal
In her 2006 verdict, Kessler described the tobacco
industry as one that "survives, and profits, from selling a highly
addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number
of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and
economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system.
. . (Tobacco companies) have consistently, repeatedly and with enormous
skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public."