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Pack of lies: Big Tobacco ordered to issue big apology

Published time: November 28, 2012 10:54
Edited time: November 28, 2012 14:54
(AFP Photo / Tim Sloan)

(AFP Photo / Tim Sloan)

A US federal judge has ordered tobacco firms to publicly admit to deceiving the public. An advertising campaign to be paid for by the industry is required. It will force firms to adopt specially-chosen ‘slogans’ that spell out the dangers of smoking.

US District Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered tobacco companies to publish corrective statements that say they admit to having lied to the public about the dangers of smoking and also to expose its health effects.

Judge Kessler had previously said she wanted the industry to pay for such corrective statements, but it’s the first time she has outlined what they should be.

Each ad will begin with a statement that a federal court has concluded that tobacco companies "deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking."

'Corrective statements' that tobacco firms will have to adopt:

"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."

"All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks and premature death – lights, low tar, ultra-lights and naturals. There is no safe cigarette."

"Second-hand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke."

"Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, severe asthma and reduced lung function."

"There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."

Among the required 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."

Judge Kessler said all the corrective statements were based on findings made by the court.

"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," she said.

The corrective statements are part of a case the government brought in 1999 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

In 2006, Judge Kessler ruled in that case that the nation's largest cigarette makers had “concealed the dangers of smoking for decades.” She added that she wanted the industry to pay for "corrective statements".

Tobacco companies, including Altria Group Inc., owner of the nation's biggest tobacco company, Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. said they were reviewing the ruling and considering their next steps.

Some firms had urged Judge Kessler to reject the government's proposed industry-financed corrective statements, calling them "forced public confessions" that were designed to "shame and humiliate" them.

Instead, they argued for statements that included just health effects and smoking’s addictiveness.

Judge Kessler has told tobacco companies and the Justice Department to meet in February to see how to implement the corrective statements, including which media to be used.

A final verdict is expected in March on how and where the corrective messages will be advertised.