Feds to big tobacco: ‘Admit you lied’

The Justice Department wants the largest cigarette manufacturers to admit that they lied to the public about the dangers of smoking, forcing the industry to set up and pay for an advertising campaign of self-criticism for past behavior.

As part of a 12-year-old lawsuit against the tobacco industry, the government on Wednesday released 14 “corrective statements” that it says the companies should be required to make.

One “corrective” statement says: “A federal court is requiring tobacco companies to tell the truth about cigarette smoking. Here’s the truth: … Smoking kills 1,200 Americans. Every day.”

Another of the government’s proposed statements begins: “We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits.”

“For decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes,” a third statement says. “Here’s the truth. … We control nicotine delivery to create and sustain smokers’ addiction, because that’s how we keep customers coming back.”

Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro, the nation’s top-selling cigarette brand, and its parent company, Altria Group Inc., said Wednesday they were prepared to fight if the Justice Department won’t dial back its hard-hitting proposals.

Philip Morris said the Justice Department plan would compel an admission of wrongdoing under threat of contempt of court by a judge.

“Such a proposal is unprecedented in our legal system and would violate basic constitutional and statutory standards,” the company statement said.

The Justice Department released its proposed statements after winning U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s approval to place them in the public record. She has said she wants the industry to pay for corrective statements in various types of ads, both broadcast and print, but she has not made a final decision on what the statements will say, where they must be placed or for how long.

Kessler was to meet with all parties on Thursday.

The judge ruled in 2006 that the tobacco industry had concealed the dangers of smoking for decades. If Kessler approves, the proposed statements by the cigarette makers would become the remedy to ensure the companies don’t repeat the violation. The case was brought by the government against the industry in 1999.

The companies have escaped from having to pay the hundreds of billions of dollars that the government has sought to collect from them. Lower courts have said the government is not entitled to collect $280 billion in past profits or $14 billion for a national campaign to curb smoking.

The industry asked for 90 days to respond to the government’s statements, but the judge denied that request. The tobacco companies have until March 3 to respond.

Philip Morris said it agrees with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking is addictive and causes lung cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases in smokers. But the company said the proposal also would violate a court of appeals decision, which held that any corrective statements must be purely factual and uncontroversial.

“The government’s proposal is neither,” Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, said in the company statement. “We will work with the Department of Justice and, if necessary, challenge the proposal at the appropriate time.”

The government proposed 14 statements to cover the addictiveness of nicotine, the lack of health benefit from “low tar,” `’ultra-light” and “mild” cigarettes and negative health effects of second-hand smoke.

The proposed statements are labeled “Paid for” by the name of the cigarette manufacturer “under order of a federal district court.”

Other proposed statements include:

“We told Congress under oath that we believed nicotine is not addictive. We told you that smoking is not an addiction and all it takes to quit is willpower. Here’s the truth: Smoking is very addictive. And it’s not easy to quit.”

“Just because lights and low tar cigarettes feel smoother, that doesn’t mean they are any better for you. Light cigarettes can deliver the same amounts of tar and nicotine as regular cigarettes.”

“The surgeon general has concluded” that “children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems and more severe asthma.”
Copyright © 2011

2 Responses to "Feds to big tobacco: ‘Admit you lied’"

  1. Fivebyfives  February 24, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Everyone onboard the Hypocrisy Express. This from the same federal government that derives its funding for SCHIP from cigarette taxes.

    Perhaps smokers are a bit ahead of Alan Simpson’s vision of patriotism by dying off early, so as to relieve the burden on “real” taxpayers. Also, since smokers are overwhelmingly in the bottom quintile of income, they have no clout, no power, and the activity itself is de classe anyway.

    No doubt cigarette manufacturers are out to make a lot of bucks by marketing products that are harmful; extremely so. But where the Hyprocrisy Express really gets rolling is when the half-truths are laid bare. For instance, a carton of cigarettes contains ten packs. How many packs’ cost to the consumer go to the manufacturers, the cities, the states, and the federal government? After deducting the taxes on these things, the evil cigarette companies make their profit on two packs. The other eight go to the government(s).

    The state of Florida wanes as eloquently as any other about the cost of smoking-related expenses, having taken part in the “tobacco settlement” years ago. It blew the money rather quickly and wanted more…so the state itself now MANUFACTURES cigarettes (at its prisons) while complaining about the evils of its own product.

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to ban tobacco completely. All health issues will disappear. It will relieve millions of those of modest means of a huge tax.

    Oh. Wait. It’s those taxes again. We need them. Governments are now addicted to them while immersing themselves in a font of self righteous indignation.

    So why not advertise the whole story….”Your government condemns the tactics of the cigarette companies, but we love that money, so for God’s sake keep smoking. But please quit; it’s for your own good. But keep smoking; we need the money…….”

    Please.

    • woody188  February 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Prohibition would create a black market where cigarettes would remain available, and then there would only be expense in eliminating and treating people made sick by them instead of having a revenue source like today. They tried it with alcohol, and we got Al Capone and violent crime surged. They do it today with marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, and so we have Mexican drug gangs causing violence along our borders, and prisons full of non-violent “offenders.” Prohibition will only exacerbate any tobacco issue and further decimate our economy.

      Let’s see if we can come up with 14 corrective statements for the Federal government.

      1. The Federal Reserve does not promote currency stability or full employment and is illegal if we follow our Constitution.

      2. The Sixteenth Amendment was not ratified by the required 3/4 of the states, but we’ve been robbing you with it for so long we decided it’s been “codified” and necessary to our stability.

      Only 12 more to go!

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