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Tobacco Companies Ordered To Admit They Lied About Cigarettes

November 29, 2012

Tobacco companies have been facing a barrage of personal injury lawsuits for decades stemming from their cigarettes. Following a federal lawsuit against big tobacco filed in 1999, a federal judge this week ordered four tobacco companies to admit they lied to the American public about the harmful effects of their cigarettes. Specifically, Judge Gladys Kessler ruled the tobacco companies must take out ads admitting they deceived consumers about the dangers of smoking and deliberately manipulated their cigarettes to make them more addictive. In addition, the Judge ordered the companies to inform the public about other dangers of cigarettes including their additive nature, the number of deaths from smoking, and the number of deaths from second hand smoke exposure.

The first private lawsuit brought against a major tobacco company was filed in the 1950s. Since then over 800 private personal injury lawsuits were filed against the tobacco companies. The number of lawsuits escalated after more and more evidence came out about the health dangers of cigarette smoking, the lack of warnings provided by the companies, and deliberate efforts to make cigarettes more addictive. In the mid-1990s, over 40 states filed suit against big tobacco on behalf of their citizens. These state lawsuits sought monetary damages, injunctive relief, and other remedies. The litigation was based on the theory tobacco companies employed deceptive and fraudulent practices in manufacturing and marketing their cigarettes, resulting in expensive healthcare costs incurred by each state through their healthcare system. In 1998, a tobacco master settlement was reached between the attorney generals of 46 states and Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillad, totaling over $206 billion, paid out over 25 years.

In 1999, the federal government brought its own lawsuit against Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influence and Corruption Organizations. The RICO statute provides for criminal penalties and civil causes of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. In 2006, Federal Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the nation's largest cigarette makers engaged in an organized practice of concealing the dangers of smoking for decades.

As part of her ruling, Judge Kessler ordered the tobacco industry to pay for "corrective statements" through various types of advertisements. These corrective statements include requiring tobacco companies to admit in advertisements they lied about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. In doing so, the companies must also admit smoking kills an average of 1,200 Americans every day. They must admit the nicotine in cigarettes is an addictive drug and that smoking, itself, is highly addictive. The tobacco companies must admit labeling cigarettes as low tar, light, ultralight, mild, and natural has been shown to provide no significant health benefits. Tobacco companies must admit they deliberately manipulated their product design and composition to make nicotine delivery as effective as possible, including intentionally adding more nicotine to their cigarettes to get people hooked. Finally, Judge Kessler ordered the tobacco companies to admit the harmful effects of secondhand smoke exposure to health, including the fact that over 3,000 people die every year in the US from second hand smoke exposure.

Sources used:

Medical News Today, Admit You Lied - Tobacco Companies Ordered, November 28, 2012.

Huffington Post, Judge Rules Tobacco Companies Must Take out Ads Saying They Lied About Dangers Of Smoking, November 27, 2012.

Wikipedia, Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, Last Modified October 27, 2012.

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