How do you Shame an Industry that has None?

April 14, 2011


Maybe you thought you’d heard everything when the executives of Big Tobacco companies raised their right hands and swore to Congress that they didn’t believe nicotine was addictive or that cigarettes cause cancer.

Well, you were wrong.

Now they’re saying that the statements the Justice Department wants them to make under a federal court order stemming from the companies’ racketeering conviction are designed to “shame and humiliate” them. 

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found in 2006 that the Big Tobacco companies violated civil racketeering laws and defrauded the American people by lying for decades about the health risks of smoking and their marketing to children. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals in the case — making Kessler’s judgment the final verdict on Big Tobacco’s deadly deception.

Advertisement for True Brand Cigarettes: Considering all IKessler ordered the companies to make “corrective statements” concerning the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke, and to correct past deception, through newspaper and television advertising, their web sites and as part of cigarette packaging. That’s what the companies are complaining about now.

They’re whining in court documents that the statements the government wants them to make are “controversial, inflammatory and factually unsubstantiated.” Really?

Here’s what the tobacco companies are complaining about — versus what Judge Kessler found to be the facts:

  • Tobacco companies: They shouldn’t be forced to say “we falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits.”

    Judge Kessler’s finding:  “Defendants falsely marketed and promoted low tar/light cigarettes as less harmful than full-flavor cigarettes in order to keep people smoking and sustain corporate revenues.”
  • Tobacco companies:  They shouldn’t be forced to say that “for decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes.”

    Judge Kessler’s finding:   “Defendants have falsely denied that they can and do control the level of nicotine delivered in order to create and sustain addiction. “ What’s more:  “For decades, defendants have recognized that controlling nicotine delivery, in order to create and sustain smokers’ addiction, was necessary to ensure commercial success.”    

We’re wondering how, exactly, you can shame an industry that profits from a product that causes disease and death — and is responsible for more than 5 million deaths around the globe each year.   

The defining word for them: Shameless.