U.S. to tobacco firms: admit falsehoods on light cigs and nicotine addiction

Posted: 2/23/2011

From The New York Times:

A federal judge on Wednesday unsealed a government proposal that outlines what it wants tobacco companies to say in national advertising and on cigarette packages -- that they lied to the American public about so-called light cigarettes and the addictiveness of nicotine.

Judge Gladys Kessler of the United States District Court in Washington denied a request by the tobacco companies that the recommendations, by the Justice Department, be kept secret until they submitted a response.

The so-called corrective statements were ordered as part of a civil racketeering judgment in 2006 in which Judge Kessler ruled against the tobacco companies, saying they had lied for 50 years. The statements are to appear in newspaper and magazine advertising and in attachments to cigarette packages.

Judge Kessler is also deciding how the advertisements should be displayed at retail outlets. She is expected to set a schedule Thursday for the response from the companies and her decision.

The Justice Department's proposed statement are blunt, and are being met with stiff resistance from the tobacco companies.

One would have the tobacco companies buy ads saying in part: "We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits. We knew that many smokers switch to low tar and light cigarettes rather than quitting because they believe low tar and lights are less harmful. They are NOT."

Another would say in part: "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. We manipulated cigarettes to make them more addictive."

Philip Morris USA, the largest United States tobacco company, said on Wednesday that the government's proposals "go beyond factual and scientific information." The company, which makes Marlboro cigarettes and is owned by the Altria Group, signaled it would appeal to higher courts if necessary.

"The Department of Justice proposal would compel the companies to admit wrongdoing under threat of contempt," Murray Garnick, Altria associate general counsel, said in a statement. "Such a proposal is unprecedented in our legal system and would violate basic constitutional and statutory standards."

The tobacco companies will be proposing their own versions for the judge to consider.

Original here.