Tobacco Cos. Appeal Ruling Requiring Corrective Statements
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Altria Group Inc., Philip Morris USA Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. filed a joint appeal to a recent ruling that would require them to include a list of corrective statements in their marketing, reported the Winston-Salem Journal and Associate Press.
On Nov. 27, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the tobacco companies to feature the overarching statement: "A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking, and has ordered those companies to make this statement."
The order included "truth" statements for five categories:
- Adverse health effects of smoking
- Addictiveness of smoking and nicotine;
- Lack of significant health benefits provided by smoking low tar, light, ultra light, mild and natural cigarettes;
- Manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery; and
- Adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke.
The tobacco companies called upon Judge Kessler to reject the statements submitted by the U.S. Justice Department, which they referred to as "forced public confessions" in court filings, according to the report. Reynolds attorney Noel Francisco stated that the statement requirements violate an appeals court decision that any corrective statements must be purely factual and uncontroversial.
Kessler ruled last November that the tobacco companies must admit they lied about the dangers of cigarette use. The sanction is the result of a 1999 lawsuit filed by the Justice Department, which accused the companies of racketeering. However, retailers and industry groups grew concerned about the appearance of guilt by association along with issues of property rights and First Amendment rights, as CSNews Online reported. A hearing on the issue of point-of-sale displays is scheduled to take place Feb. 7.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, stressed the importance of the overarching statement. "Without such an admission, the tobacco companies could turn the court's requirement that they tell the truth into an opportunity to appear trustworthy, enabling them to continue deceiving the public," he said.
However, the companies argued in court filings that the 2009 Tobacco Control Act removed any reasonable likelihood of future violations by the tobacco manufacturers, therefore also eliminating the need for remedies such as corrective statements.