Deal reached on tobacco firm corrective statements

Tobacco firms, feds reach deal on issuing statements that they lied to about smoking dangers

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The nation's tobacco companies and the federal government have reached an agreement on publishing corrective statements that say the companies lied about the dangers of smoking and requires them to disclose smoking's health effects, including the death on average of 1,200 people a day.

The agreement filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., follows a 2012 ruling ordering the industry to pay for corrective statements in various advertisements. The judge in the case ordered the parties to meet to discuss how to implement the statements, including whether they would be put in inserts with cigarette packs and on websites, TV and newspaper ads.

The court must still approve the agreement and the parties are discussing whether retailers will be required to post large displays with the industry's admissions.

The corrective statements are part of a case the government brought in 1999 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in that case in 2006 that the nation's largest cigarette makers concealed the dangers of smoking for decades. The companies involved in the case include Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., owner of the biggest U.S. tobacco company, Philip Morris USA; No. 2 cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., owned by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc.; and No. 3 cigarette maker Lorillard Inc., based in Greensboro, N.C.

Under the agreement with the Justice Department, each of the companies must publish full-page ads in the Sunday editions of 35 newspapers and on the newspapers' websites, as well as air prime-time TV spots on CBS, ABC or NBC five times per week for a year. The companies also must publish the statements on their websites and affix them to a certain number of cigarette packs three times per year for two years.

Each corrective ad is to be prefaced by a statement that a federal court has concluded that the defendant tobacco companies "deliberately deceived the American public." Among the required statements are that smoking kills more people than murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol combined, and that "secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans a year."

Tobacco companies had urged Kessler to reject the government's proposed corrective statements; the companies called them "forced public confessions." They also said the statements were designed to "shame and humiliate" them. They had argued for statements that include the health effects and addictive qualities of smoking.

A federal appeals court also rejected efforts by the tobacco companies to overrule Kessler's ruling requiring corrective statements.

Representatives for Altria, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard each declined to comment.

Several public health groups, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association, intervened in the case. In a statement Friday, the groups said the corrective statements are "necessary reminders that tobacco's devastating toll over the past 50-plus years is no accident. It stems directly from the tobacco industry's deceptive and even illegal practices."

The corrective statements include five categories: adverse health effects of smoking; addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; lack of significant health benefit from smoking cigarettes marked as "low tar," ''light," etc.; manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery; and adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Among the statements within those categories:

"Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day."

"Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Altria intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive."

"When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain — that's why quitting is so hard."

"All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature disease, heart attacks, and premature death — lights, low tar, ultra lights, and naturals. There is no safe cigarette."

"Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke."

"Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, severe asthma, and reduced lung function."

"There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum .

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