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Court Order Requires Tobacco Companies to Post Signs About Health Risks of Smoking at 200,000 Stores Across U.S. – Order Stems from 2006 Racketeering Verdict Against Companies

Statement of the American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, The Center for Black Health & Equity (formerly the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network) and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (public health intervenors in the case)
December 06, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Under a federal court order issued today, the major U.S. tobacco companies will soon have to post signs telling the public the truth about the deadly consequences of cigarette smoking at nearly 200,000 retail outlets across the nation that sell cigarettes.

This order will fully implement the “corrective statements” the tobacco companies were first ordered to make in 2006, when U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a landmark judgment that these companies had violated civil racketeering laws and lied to the public for decades about the health risks and addictiveness of cigarettes and their marketing to children. The tobacco industry has fought the point-of-sale corrective statements in court for 16 years, but the parties to the case – including the U.S. Department of Justice, our six public health intervenors and the tobacco companies – recently negotiated an agreement for the corrective statement signs to be displayed in retail stores for 21 months. Today’s court order implements this agreement.

The point-of-sale signs will tell the public the truth about the adverse health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke, the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, and the industry’s manipulation of cigarettes to make them more addictive. Critically, this important information will be provided to consumers at the point where they are making decisions whether to purchase cigarettes.

These corrective statement signs will also be powerful reminders that tobacco’s horrific toll is no accident. It stems directly from the tobacco industry’s deceptive and illegal practices. As Judge Kessler found in her 2006 final opinion, the tobacco companies have engaged in massive wrongdoing that has resulted in “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.” The fact that the tobacco companies have fought the point-of-sale corrective statements for 16 years shows how little they have changed.

The corrective statements have previously been disseminated through newspaper and television ads and on cigarette packs, and they continue to appear on tobacco company websites. The statements are intended to prevent and restrain future fraud by an industry that has lied to the American people for decades.

Implementation Details

Today’s court order applies to defendants Altria, Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, as well as to four cigarette brands owned by ITG Brands LLC.

The court order provides for a six-month “Ramp-up Period,” which will run from January 1, 2023, through June 30, 2023, during which the Manufacturers will amend their Participating Retailer Contracts, and manufacture and distribute the required signs. A three-month “Posting Period” follows, from July 1, 2023, through September 30, 2023, during which the initial round of signs must be installed. A 21-month “Implementation Period” will then run from October 1, 2023, through June 30, 2025. Signs with the required corrective statements must be displayed at approximately 195,500 stores throughout the Implementation Period. At the middle of the Implementation Period, there will be a three-month “Rotation Period,” from July 1, 2024, through September 30, 2024, during which different signs will begin to be displayed in each store. 

The text of the corrective statements can be found on p. 47 of the court order.

Learn more about the federal government’s racketeering lawsuit and Judge Kessler’s 2006 judgment.