May. 22 2009
Washington, D.C. — Today's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously upheld the historic decision of U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler that the tobacco industry had and continues to engage in a massive, decades long campaign to defraud the American public. The Appeals Court decision is a major victory for public health.
The three judge Appeals Court panel affirmed the lower court's judgment that the cigarette manufacturers engaged in a 50 year massive racketeering scheme that included falsely denying the adverse health effects of their products, falsely denying that nicotine is addictive, falsely representing that “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes present fewer health risks, falsely denying that they marketed to kids, and falsely denying that secondhand smoke causes disease.
The Court of Appeals also upheld Judge Kessler's original finding that there was a substantial likelihood of future violations of the law by the tobacco industry based on evidence presented during the trial that the tobacco companies had repeatedly violated the law, even after agreeing to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
The Appeals Court also upheld specific remedies originally ordered by Judge Kessler including a requirement that the tobacco companies publish corrective statements and packet inserts on each of the topics for which they were found to have committed fraud.
Today's Appeals Court ruling also upheld Judge Kessler's decision to allow six public health groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, to be intervenors in the case. The Appeals Court found that intervention by the public health groups was necessary to protect the public interest because the federal government had substantially altered the remedies it had previously sought.
We are disappointed that the Court of Appeals did not sanction additional remedies sought by public health groups including countermarketing campaigns and smoking cessation programs paid for by the tobacco companies.
Today's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals represents a dramatic victory for public health and an emphatic condemnation of the tobacco industry and its behavior. The fact that the Appeals Court ruled unanimously is very important because it leaves little room for the tobacco companies to appeal.
The Appeals Court decision also demonstrates the importance of legislation pending before the U.S. Senate to authorize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry. The FDA tobacco bill passed the House in April and was approved 15-8 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on May 20 and sent to the full Senate for consideration. The Senate should quickly pass the bill and rein in a tobacco industry that has demonstrated over and over that it cannot be trusted.