But Are Their Pants on Fire? Court Orders Tobacco Companies to Admit to Lies

Pall Malls

It may be a case of too little too late, but in an historic ruling, a federal judge has ordered major tobacco manufacturers to admit they spent decades using deceptive marketing practices to promote cigarette sales. The companies will have to spend their own money on an advertising campaign that admits the companies lied about the safety of cigarettes as far back as 1964.

While details have yet to be determined on the exact cost and which media outlets will be targeted, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered tobacco companies including Reynolds American Inc. and Philip Morris USA to produce the media campaigns, which could be in circulation for as long as two years.

The companies will be required to use certain language in the ads, which are called “corrective statements.” According to Reuters, the campaign will include the following language: “A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public by falsely selling and advertising low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes.” And: “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.”

Judge Kessler’s decision comes after a 2006 decision when she first ordered the campaigns after ruling that the tobacco companies were guilty of racketeering. Her ruling stated that the companies should use the same methods for admitting to their wrongdoing as had been employed to promote the lies, mainly television and newspaper ads as well as on the companies’ websites.

The tobacco companies are expected to appeal the decision.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Fugue

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.