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Federal Judge’s Order Moves Tobacco Companies Closer to Finally Telling the Truth to the American People

Statement of the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network
June 03, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler on Monday issued a final order detailing how major U.S. cigarette manufacturers must publish “corrective statements” and finally tell the American people the truth about their deadly and addictive products. Judge Kessler first ordered the corrective statements in 2006 when she found the cigarette companies guilty of violating civil racketeering laws and lying to the public about the dangers of smoking and their marketing to children.

Judge Kessler’s latest order is a critical step toward finally holding the tobacco companies accountable and ending decades of deception that has resulted in the addiction, illness and death of millions.

It has been 15 years since the U.S. Department of Justice first filed this lawsuit and eight years since Judge Kessler issued her verdict. While Judge Kessler’s latest order is an important step forward, it is not the end of this long legal battle. The tobacco companies have filed time-consuming appeals at every stage of this lawsuit and indicated they will appeal the specific language of the corrective statements ordered by Judge Kessler. We urge them to end their delay tactics and finally tell the truth to the American people.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has rejected two previous industry appeals of Judge Kessler’s landmark 2006 decision, and it is our hope the appellate court would do so again. Judge Kessler’s latest order ensures that when all potential appeals are exhausted, the corrective statements will be ready to run without further delay.

To prevent the industry’s deception from continuing, Judge Kessler ordered the companies to make corrective statements through television and newspaper advertising, on the companies’ web sites and on cigarette packaging. In a November 2012 order specifying the language of the corrective statements, Judge Kessler ordered the tobacco companies to state at the beginning of each statement that a federal court had ruled the companies “deliberately deceived the American public.” The five corrective statements will address the companies’ deceptions regarding 1) the health effects of smoking; 2) the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; 3) the false advertising of low-tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes; 4) the designing of cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine; and 5) the health effects of secondhand smoke.

Today’s order, which is based on an agreement between the Justice Department, six public health intervenors and the tobacco company defendants, spells out the specific details for implementing the corrective statements. Judge Kessler’s original order also required the companies to make the corrective statements through retail point-of-sale displays, but litigation is continuing over whether the companies must make the corrective statements in those venues.

Judge Kessler’s verdict and the corrective statements she ordered are necessary reminders that tobacco’s devastating toll is no accident. It stems directly from the tobacco industry’s deceptive and even illegal practices. As Judge Kessler found, “[This case] is about an industry, and in particular these Defendants, that survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system. Defendants have known many of these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, the Government, and to the public health community.” Importantly, Judge Kessler found that “the evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity.”

Our six public health organizations – the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (a 501c4 affiliate of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids) – joined the case as intervenors in 2005.