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U.S. Judge Slaps Down Tobacco Industry Effort to Evade Sanctions in Racketeering Case

June 03, 2011


The tobacco industry spends billions marketing its products with determined deception, but it can’t dupe U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler.

Judge Kessler issued the landmark 2006 decision that the tobacco companies have violated civil racketeering laws (RICO) and defrauded the public by lying for decades about the health risks of smoking and their marketing to children.

This week, in her latest ruling in the long-running federal case, Kessler rejected industry claims that the court supervision and sanctions she ordered are no longer necessary because of the new law giving the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products.

Kessler scoffed at the companies’ argument that FDA regulation means they won’t violate the law in the future: 'Simply unconvincing,' she says.

The industry had made the same argument about the 1998 settlement of state lawsuits against tobacco companies, but that didn’t prevent the companies from violating 'the letter and spirit' of that settlement, Kessler noted.

What’s more, the same companies that argued they should be monitored solely by the FDA law — and not the federal court — have mounted legal and administrative challenges to that very law. This is 'particularly unconvincing,' Kessler wrote.

'It is difficult to understand how Defendants can argue that the Tobacco Control Act will produce their future compliance with RICO, when they do not believe that a great portion of the Act should apply to them at all,' she said.

So the tobacco companies are stuck with Judge Kessler. Among other sanctions, she has ordered the companies to publicly correct their past lies through statements in newspaper and television advertisements, in stores, on their web sites and on cigarette packaging. Such statements and continued court oversight are critical to sparing the public from more deadly manipulation by the tobacco industry.