Tobacco Giants Ordered to Admit Their Past Deceit

By McCarton Ackerman 11/28/12

A US judge mandates humiliating "corrective statements" on cigarette packs and in the media.

A confession unwillingly given
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Tobacco companies are still choking on the "Smoking Kills" warnings they've been forced to place on cigarette packaging, but it's about to get worse for them. US District Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered tobacco firms to pay for a public campaign that lays out "past deception" over smoking risks. A series of humiliating "corrective statements" must be made by the companies over a period of up to two years; each statement must be prefaced by the admission that the tobacco companies "deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking." One statement says: "Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day." Another reads: "Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive." The campaign was first ordered by Kessler in 2006 after she determined that tobacco companies hid the risk of smoking for decades—but a legal battle over the details ensued. Tobacco firms objected in particular to the use of the word "deceived" in the statements. They claim the ruling amounts to "forced public confessions." But Kessler wrote that all of the corrective statements were based on findings of fact made by the court. The firms may appeal and are currently studying the ruling. The Justice Department is set to meet the companies next month to discuss how to run the statements on cigarette packs, websites, on TV or in newspapers. "Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing," says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.