Mar. 20 1997
Washington, DC - Today’s settlement by the Liggett Group is a historic development that will have important consequences for protecting the public health from the harmful effects of tobacco use. It directly contradicts the sworn testimony of tobacco executives and is the first major break in their ranks. Most importantly, it underscores the need for the Food and Drug Administration action to put an end to the industry’s insidious efforts to hook more kids on tobacco. We applaud the efforts of the state Attorneys General who hammered out this agreement. For the first time, a tobacco company has admitted that cigarettes cause cancer; that nicotine is addictive; and that the tobacco companies target teenagers in their marketing. While all of this has been known by the public health community for years, today’s announcement reveals an undeniable pattern of deceit by tobacco executives, who have repeatedly denied that their products kill or that they knowingly seek to addict a new generation of teen smokers. The documents prove that the tobacco companies have been lying to the American public for decades. Now we know the truth, and now we need to proceed with meaningful action to protect our children from tobacco addiction. These disclosures by Bennett LeBow, Liggett’s chief executive officer, come at a critical time in the tobacco wars. Smoking among young people is at a 17-year high. Unless current trends are reversed, 5 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-related disease. After today’s disclosures, there can be no doubts about the industry’s unscrupulous activities and no doubts about the need for FDA action to stop the industry from marketing its products to children. It is time for all the tobacco companies to stop luring kids into a life of addiction.