The Federal Appeals Court in Washington DC has upheld a lower Court’s ruling from 2005 that now requires tobacco companies to publish corrections to prior statements they made regarding the misinformation they knowingly distributed to the American public in the past.

The Federal Court ruled that 5 corrective statements must address the tobacco companies’ past deceptions regarding:

  1. The adverse health effects of smoking.
  2. The addictiveness of smoking and nicotine.
  3. The false advertising of low-tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes.
  4. The design of cigarettes to maximize nicotine delivery and addiction.
  5. The health effects of secondhand smoke.

The Tobacco companies are required to disseminate the corrective statements via television and newspaper advertising, their websites, and cigarette packaging.

These corrective statements are necessary reminders that tobacco’s devastating toll is no accident. As the court found, “[This case] is about an industry that survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system. Defendants have known many of these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, the Government, and to the public health community.” Importantly, the lower court found that “the evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendant (tobacco companies) have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity.”

What is clear is that this ruling sends a clear message regarding the Federal courts’ attitude toward future tobacco cases, which will signal to state courts as persuasive precedent that they too should rule in line against the tobacco industry. Florida courts, rather famously in Engle v. Liggett, have already rendered verdicts against tobacco companies. Hopefully this federal ruling will aid plaintiffs in their pursuit of justice.

Citation: Press statement of Vince Willmore Vice President, Communications Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids