Lies, Damn Lies and Big Tobacco

February 24, 2011

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Tobacco companies have never let the facts get in the way of their deadly marketing.

So it's no surprise that they're still trying to thwart the Justice Department — and a federal judge — even though they've been found guilty of a long conspiracy to deceive and defraud the American people.

As a result of that landmark 2006 ruling, the big cigarette makers are now being forced to tell the truth. And it's got them crying for mercy they don't deserve.

When U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found the companies guilty of violating civil racketeering laws, she ordered them to issue 'corrective statements' to set the record straight about their many lies. The Justice Department has now proposed the wording of those statements, which are to appear in newspaper and TV ads, in stores, on tobacco company websites and on cigarette packs.

Here's what some of them say.

  • 'A Federal court is requiring tobacco companies to tell the truth about cigarette smoking. Here’s the truth…Smoking kills 1,200 Americans. Every Day.'
  • 'We told Congress under oath that we believed nicotine is not addictive. We told you that smoking is not an addiction and all it takes to quit is willpower. Here's the truth ... Smoking is very addictive. And it's not easy to quit.'
  • 'We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits.'
  • 'For decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes. Here's the truth ... We control nicotine delivery to create and sustain smokers' addiction, because that's how we keep customers coming back.'

It's all backed up by evidence, and laid out exhaustively in Judge Kessler's 1,683-page opinion. The court rightly found that Americans must be told the truth to prevent more deception in the future.

That's too controversial for Philip Morris, which is complaining that the court shouldn't 'compel the companies to admit wrongdoing.'

Judge Kessler ordered tobacco companies to tell the truth. And no amount of legal conniving should get them off the hook.