WASHINGTON -- A federal judge on Tuesday ordered tobaccocompanies to publish corrective statements that say they lied about thedangers of smoking and that disclose smoking's health effects, includingthe death on average of 1,200 people a day.
U.S. District JudgeGladys Kessler previously had said she wanted the industry to pay forcorrective statements in various types of advertisements. But Tuesday'sruling is the first time she's laid out what the statements will say.
Eachcorrective ad is to be prefaced by a statement that a federal court hasconcluded that the defendant tobacco companies "deliberately deceivedthe American public about the health effects of smoking." Among therequired statements are that smoking kills more people than murder,AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol combined, and that"secondhand smoke kills over 3,000 Americans a year."
Thecorrective statements are part of a case the government brought in 1999under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. Kessler ruledin that case in 2006 that the nation's largest cigarette makersconcealed the dangers of smoking for decades, and said she wanted theindustry to pay for "corrective statements" in various types of ads,both broadcast and print. The Justice Department proposed correctivestatements, which Kessler used as the basis for some of the ones sheordered Tuesday.
Tobacco companies had urged Kessler to reject thegovernment's proposed industry-financed corrective statements; thecompanies called them "forced public confessions." They also said thestatements were designed to "shame and humiliate" them. They had arguedfor statements that include the health effects and addictive qualitiesof smoking.
Kessler wrote that all of the corrective statements are based on specific findings of fact made by the court.
"Thiscourt made a number of explicit findings that the tobacco companiesperpetuated fraud and deceived the public regarding the addictiveness ofcigarettes and nicotine," she said.
A spokesman for Altria GroupInc., owner of the nation's biggest tobacco company, Philip Morris USA,said the company was studying the court's decision and did not provideany further comment. A spokesman for Reynolds American Inc., parentcompany of No. 2 cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., said thecompany was reviewing the ruling and considering its next steps.
Thestatements Kessler chose included five categories: adverse healtheffects of smoking; addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; lack ofsignificant health benefit from smoking cigarettes marked as "low tar,"''light," etc.; manipulation of cigarette design and composition toensure optimum nicotine delivery; and adverse health effects of exposureto secondhand smoke.
Among the statements within those categories:
"Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day."
"Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive."
"When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain - that's why quitting is so hard."
"Allcigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks and prematuredeath - lights, low tar, ultra lights and naturals. There is no safecigarette."
"Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke."
"Childrenexposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infantdeath syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems,severe asthma and reduced lung function."
"There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the department was pleased with the order.
Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called it an important ruling.
"Themost critical part of the ruling is that it requires the tobaccocompanies to state clearly that the court found that they deceived theAmerican public and that they are telling the truth now only because thecourt is ordering them to do so," Myers said in an interview. "Thisisn't the last word, but this is a vitally important step because thisshould resolve exactly what the tobacco companies are required to say."
InJuly, a federal appeals court rejected efforts by the tobacco companiesto overrule Kessler's ruling requiring corrective statements. Thecompanies had argued that a 2009 law that gave the Food and DrugAdministration authority over the industry eliminated "any reasonablelikelihood" that they would commit future RICO violations.
In herruling Tuesday, Kessler ordered the tobacco companies and JusticeDepartment to meet beginning next month to address how to implement thecorrective statements, including whether they will be put in insertswith cigarette packs and on websites, TV and newspaper ads. Thosediscussions are to conclude by March.