Here’s What it Looks Like When a Tobacco Company Says ‘I’m Sorry’

Get ready for a full-page New York Times ad-apology from tobacco companies.

National Journal
Clara Ritger
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Clara Ritger
Jan. 13, 2014, 8:11 a.m.

After 15 years of fight­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment over lies to the pub­lic about the health risks of smoking, the na­tion’s biggest to­bacco com­pan­ies are ready to apo­lo­gize.

Philip Mor­ris USA, R.J. Reyn­olds, Lor­il­lard, and Al­tria are pre­par­ing full-page ads to run in the Sunday edi­tions of the coun­try’s top 35 news­pa­pers, as well as on­line ads for those pa­pers’ web­sites and prime-time tele­vi­sion spots to run for a full year on CBS, ABC, and NBC. The cor­por­a­tions are also re­quired to run cor­rect­ive state­ments on their web­sites and ci­gar­ette pack­ages.

The self-fla­gel­la­tion stems from a 2006 fed­er­al court de­cision or­der­ing the to­bacco com­pan­ies to cor­rect the re­cord on state­ments they made about the health ef­fects of smoking. On Fri­day, the com­pan­ies’ law­yers and the Justice De­part­ment struck a deal on how they will is­sue the apo­logy.

A mock-up of an ad­vert­ise­ment that could pub­lish as a full-page ad in The New York Times reads, “A Fed­er­al Court has ruled that Philip Mor­ris USA, R.J. Reyn­olds To­bacco, Lor­il­lard, and Al­tria de­lib­er­ately de­ceived the Amer­ic­an pub­lic about design­ing ci­gar­ettes to en­hance the de­liv­ery of nicot­ine and has ordered those com­pan­ies to make this state­ment.”

It goes on to say that the in­dustry “in­ten­tion­ally de­signed ci­gar­ettes to make them more ad­dict­ive,” and that nicot­ine “changes the brain,” mak­ing it harder to quit.

The to­bacco com­pan­ies could ap­peal the lan­guage of the ads. But first, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Gladys Kessler is sched­uled to re­view the agree­ment about how to is­sue the cor­rect­ive state­ments on Wed­nes­day, Jan. 22, at 10 a.m. in Courtroom 26A of the U.S. Dis­trict Court of D.C.

The Justice De­part­ment first brought the case against the to­bacco in­dustry in 1999, ar­guing that they know­ingly and in­ten­tion­ally mis­in­formed the pub­lic about the neg­at­ive health con­sequences of smoking.

Kessler ordered the in­dustry in 2006 to is­sue the state­ments after she found them guilty of vi­ol­at­ing civil rack­et­eer­ing laws and ly­ing to the pub­lic about the dangers of smoking.

The judge re­quired the state­ments to ap­pear on tele­vi­sion and in news­pa­pers, as well as on the com­pan­ies’ web­sites and ci­gar­ette pack­ages, and to con­tain lan­guage that the court had ruled that the com­pan­ies “de­lib­er­ately de­ceived the Amer­ic­an pub­lic.”

In find­ing the in­dustry guilty, Kessler wrote, “[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.”

Philip Mor­ris de­clined to of­fer a com­ment for the story.

The state­ments would cor­rect mis­in­form­a­tion about “the health ef­fects of smoking, the ad­dict­ive­ness of smoking and nicot­ine, the false ad­vert­ising of low-tar and light ci­gar­ettes as less harm­ful than reg­u­lar ci­gar­ettes, the design­ing of ci­gar­ettes to en­hance the de­liv­ery of nicot­ine and the health ef­fects of second­hand smoke,” ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety Ac­tion Net­work, one of the pub­lic in­ter­ven­ors that joined the case in 2005. The oth­er na­tion­al med­ic­al and ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tions that joined the case are the Amer­ic­an Heart As­so­ci­ation, the Amer­ic­an Lung As­so­ci­ation, Amer­ic­ans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, the Na­tion­al Afric­an Amer­ic­an To­bacco Pre­ven­tion Net­work and the To­bacco-Free Kids Ac­tion Fund.

AC­SCAN’s as­so­ci­ate dir­ect­or of fed­er­al re­la­tions, Gregg Haif­ley, called the case “a long leg­al battle” that has been “dragged out” by the in­dustry.

“Mil­lions of people who oth­er­wise might have quit con­tin­ued smoking be­cause of blatant mis­rep­res­ent­a­tions of the harm to their health,” Haif­ley said. “The to­bacco in­dustry is an in­dustry that nev­er gives up. But we’re one step closer to a fi­nal con­clu­sion.”

The agree­ment falls on the 50th an­niversary of the sur­geon gen­er­al’s first re­port de­tail­ing the pub­lic-health con­sequences of smoking. The land­mark study promp­ted an­t­i­s­moking groups to pur­sue more-strin­gent pub­lic policy meas­ures reg­u­lat­ing the use of to­bacco, which res­ul­ted in 8 mil­lion lives saved since 1964, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished last week in the Journ­al of the Amer­ic­an Med­ic­al As­so­ci­ation.

Roughly 44 mil­lion adults and 3.6 mil­lion chil­dren in the United States smoke, ac­cord­ing to num­bers from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Smoking costs the U.S. roughly $193 bil­lion an­nu­ally in health care ex­pendit­ures and lost pro­ductiv­ity, the CDC re­ports. Each year, an es­tim­ated 443,000 people die pre­ma­turely from a smoking-re­lated dis­ease.

What We're Following See More »
INTERVIEW THIS WEEK
Trump Still Considering Yellen For Fed
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump plans to formally interview Janet Yellen this week about potentially staying on as Federal Reserve chair, two people familiar with the matter said...Many Republicans on Capitol Hill want Trump to move on from Yellen, whose first term ends in February, and choose a more traditionally conservative Fed chair."

Source:
NOMINEE FOR ONDCP
Trump Noncommittal on Marino
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS
IN LIGHT OF 60 MINUTES REVELATIONS
Manchin Asks Trump to Drop Marino’s Nomination for Drug Czar
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
WOULD OVERTURN MARINO LEGISLATION ON DRUG DISTRIBUTORS
McCaskill Will Introduce Bill in Response to “60 Minutes” Scoop
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."

Source:
MCDONNELL PRECEDENT DOESN’T GET HIM OFF THE HOOK … YET
Judge Refuses to Dismiss Charges Against Menendez
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The judge overseeing in U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s case says he won’t dismiss any charges against the New Jersey Democrat. Judge William Walls ruled against defense lawyers’ arguments that the charges should be dropped because they didn’t meet a narrower definition of bribery under a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reversed the conviction of Republican former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login