After finding in 2006 that tobacco companies violated federal racketeering law, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the companies to take out advertisements admitting they deliberately deceived the US public about the danger and addictiveness of cigarettes.
For six years, armed with righteous indignation, the companies fought with the US Justice Department, saying the ruling was a violation of their rights of free speech.
Yesterday they lost.
US District Judge Gladys Kessler rejected the companies’ claim, finding that the final wording is factual and not controversial.
One of the five different statements that the companies must advertise begins with: “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.”
Judge Kessler wrote that the language is basic and uncomplicated, adding “The Government regularly requires wrongdoers to make similar disclosures in a number of different contexts”
The advertisements will differ from the warning labels that currently exist on tobacco products and will be placed in media yet to be determined.
My Take on the ruling: I wonder how many of the 2,658,000 tobacco-related deaths in the US over the last six years might have been prevented had the so-and-sos responded immediately with the ads.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the US. As a nation, we are sorely diminished by so many senseless losses of lives.
Sources: Reuters, November 27, 2012 Centers for Disease Control Fact Sheet, Tobacco-related Mortality