Big Tobacco companies like Phillip Morris STILL have to make public statements about smoking’s harmful effects. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said so in an 11-page court decision. She also slammed the industry’s fraudulent tactics to promote smoking and called the companies’ request to rewrite the public disclosures “ridiculous.”
The ruling stems from an anti-racketeering case that was brought against nine Big Tobacco companies 15 years ago. The conclusion was that the cigarette makers had engaged for over 50 years in a “pervasive scheme to defraud customers and potential customers.” The companies had joined together to make more money by deceiving the public about smoking’s “devastating health effects.”
The companies were ordered to make corrective disclosures on their cigarette packaging, in their ads and on their websites. That’s why they SHOULD be putting out ads that look like this one:
A study found that Philip Morris’s “Think. Don’t Smoke” ads resulted in more positive beliefs and attitudes towards cigarettes. Those beliefs increased even after the campaign was no longer aired. Youths who recalled the ads were also less likely to say that they would not smoke within the next year. This study confirmed earlier findings that the anti-smoking campaign actually caused favorable feelings about the tobacco industry.
The campaign’s purpose was not to discourage smoking, but to gain respectability and favor for it among the young.
Fortunately, Judge Kessler approved a draft requiring the cigarette makers to declare that they “intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive” and 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.”
Judge Slams Ineffective Stop-Smoking Ads
Kessler was blunt about Big Tobacco’s so-called stop-smoking campaigns:
“Defendants never recommend that parents inform their children that smoking kills more than 400,000 people each year, involves an addiction that most smokers desire to end, and will harm those around the smoker. Nor do Defendants ever suggest that parents, as role models for their children, stop smoking.”
“[B]oth Lorillard’s and Philip Morris’s media campaigns promote the message that smoking is an adult decision. Emphasizing that smoking is an adult activity underscores the desirability of engaging in adult behavior for adolescents who are particularly motivated to appear mature.”
Big Tobacco was also required to include a preamble admitting that a federal court had found they “deliberately deceived the American public” about:
“the adverse health effects of smoking and second-hand smoke, the addictiveness of nicotine, the manipulation of cigarette design, and the lack of a significant difference between regular and “light” cigarettes.”
The industry appealed this ruling, but the D.C. Circuit Court upheld the mandate for making disclosures to correct possible misinformation about tobacco products. The court said, though, that the companies couldn’t be compelled to admit their past acts of deliberate deception.
Tobacco Industry’s Attempt to Rewrite Disclosure Statements is Rejected
After mediation, Big Tobacco filed a 40-page brief seeking to rewrite all five of the court-approved disclosure statements. The cigarette makers also wanted the preamble to use the word “determined” instead of “ordered.” They further sought to completely remove their names from the statements and to remove a separate line stating, “Here is the truth.” Fortunately, the court would have none of it.
Judge Kessler wrote in a Feb. 8, 2016 ruling:
“That is ridiculous – a waste of precious time, energy, and money for all concerned – and a loss of information for the public. The court has no intention of following that path, although it is obvious that defendants are, once again, attempting to stall any final outcome to this long-standing litigation.”
Kessler opined that it’s already too little too late. The original ruling for these companies to come clean about the health damage they have caused multiple generations will stand.