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Big Tobacco's court-ordered "corrective" ads are here!

On November 24, major U.S. tobacco companies started publishing historic, court-mandated "corrective" statements that, at long last, tell the American public the truth about their deadly and addictive products. TV ads with similar messages correcting Big Tobacco's lies start running Monday, Nov. 27.

These ads are the culmination of a long-running lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed against the tobacco companies in 1999. The case resulted in a landmark 2006 judgment and opinion by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, who found that the tobacco companies violated civil racketeering laws (RICO) and engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the American public about the health effects of smoking and their marketing to children. 

For the past 11 years, the tobacco companies have filed appeal after appeal and repeatedly sought to water down and delay the corrective statements. The appeals ended earlier this year, and on Oct. 5, 2017, Judge Paul Friedman (who was assigned the case in August 2017 upon Judge Kessler's retirement), signed a consent order directing Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA  to begin running the corrective statement ads.

This is a major victory for the American Cancer Society, Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, which in July 2005 were allowed to intervene in the case in order to argue for strong remedies. They submitted formal recommendations to the Court, making a powerful case that the tobacco industry would never tell the complete truth voluntarily, but would have to be forced to come clean.

The full-page ads began running in newspapers that do not have Sunday editions, on Friday, Nov. 24, and they appearied in more than 40 major newspapers, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionLos Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe on Sunday, Nov. 26. Print ads will run through April 2018. TV ads will begin on Nov. 27, and run on major network or cable stations during primetime for 52 weeks. You can see them on the ACS CAN website.

What Big Tobacco is finally admitting to

The court decision orders Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA to make the following statements about the health effects of smoking. The statements fall under five categories:

Adverse health effects of smoking

  • Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans every day.
  • More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.
  • Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia, and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder, and pancreas.
  • Smoking also causes reduced fertility, low birth weight in newborns, and cancer of the cervix.

Addictiveness of smoking and nicotine

  • Smoking is highly addictive. Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco.
  • Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
  • It's not easy to quit.
  • When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that's why quitting is so hard.

The lack of significant health benefit from smoking “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild” and “natural” cigarettes

  • Many smokers switch to low tar and light cigarettes rather than quitting because they think low tar and light cigarettes are less harmful. They are not.
  • Low tar" and "light" cigarette smokers inhale essentially the same amount of tar and nicotine as they would from regular cigarettes.
  • All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death – lights, low tar, ultra lights, and naturals. There is no safe cigarette.

Manipulation of cigarette design and composition to make cigarettes more addictive

  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Philip Morris USA, Altria, and Lorillard intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.
  • Cigarette companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways, including designing filters and selecting cigarette paper to maximize the ingestion of nicotine, adding ammonia to make the cigarette taste less harsh, and controlling the physical and chemical make-up of the tobacco blend.
  • When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that's why quitting is so hard.

Adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke

  • Secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans each year.
  • Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke.
  • Children exposed to secondhand 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.

The same statement of facts will appear on tobacco company websites.   

The fight continues

Tobacco companies continue to portray themselves as responsible corporate citizens working to curb smoking. According to the Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2015, tobacco companies sold 244.2 billion cigarettes in the U.S. in 2015. Furthermore, despite significant progress in reducing smoking, at least 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., costing the nation about $170 billion in health care expenses each year.

ACS is committed to helping people quit smoking and leading the fight for a world without cancer. Learn more by reading ACS CAN's Nov. 20 press release.

A little history

Relying on thousands of exhibits consisting of previously secret, internal tobacco company documents, along with extensive testimony from former tobacco industry insiders and renowned scientific and medical experts, Judge Kessler 's1,683-page opinion states that, "over the course of more than 50 years, Defendants lied, misrepresented, and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as 'replacement smokers,' about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke, they suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, they distorted the truth about low tar and light cigarettes so as to discourage smokers from quitting, and they abused the legal system to achieve their goal – to make money with little, if any, regard for individual illness and suffering, soaring health costs, or the integrity of the legal system."

For a summary of keys points, see The Verdict Is In: Findings From United States v. Philip Morris Collection (Public Health Law Center, William Mitchell College of Law).

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