Tobacco industry running ads admitting deception of American peopleNovember 27, 2017
By court order, tobacco companies now must run TV and newspaper ads that tell the truth about cigarettes and the tobacco products they sell. After 20 years of litigation, a federal appeals court finally issued an order directing the issue of these ads, called “corrective statements.”
This is a major victory in the efforts to reduce commercial tobacco use. Blue Cross has been at the forefront of this work for many years. In 1998, the company won a major lawsuit against the commercial tobacco industry which resulted in changes to how cigarettes and other tobacco products could be marketed.
A landmark ruling against Big Tobacco
A civil lawsuit against the tobacco industry was first filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1999.In 2006, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the major tobacco companies were in violation of civil racketeering laws (RICO) and ordered them to pay for and place ads throughout the country with “corrective statements” about the health effects of smoking. The tobacco companies spent the 11 years appealing the decision. In October, the tobacco companies reached an agreement with the court on when and where ads would appear (in English and Spanish), starting on November 27.
The truth they did not want you to see
The ads will cover five different topics, from the addictive nature of smoking and nicotine and the dangers of secondhand smoke to the intentional design by the tobacco industry of cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction. View the full text of the corrective statements and details on when and where they will run.
“Tobacco companies now seek to portray themselves as responsible corporate citizens working to curb smoking, when in fact their actions are the root cause of tobacco’s horrific impact,” said Janelle Waldock, vice president of community health and health equity at Blue and co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation.
“Make no mistake. Tobacco companies are not issuing these corrective statements voluntarily, but because the court ordered them to. Big Tobacco has fought against being honest about their deadly products every step of the way. The toll tobacco takes on Minnesotans is no accident.”
The cost of smoking in Minnesota
In Minnesota, tobacco companies spend more than $115 million annually on advertising and marketing, much of it targeted to young people. As a result, tobacco use remains a persistent problem and continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death. According to a report by Blue Cross, tobacco use is responsible for the deaths of 6,312 Minnesotans each year. The annual cost of smoking in Minnesota is estimated to be over $7 billion: $3.19 billion in excess health care costs and $4.3 billion in lost productivity.
“The court ruling shows that tobacco companies won’t stop manipulating the truth for profit,” said Waldock. “It is more important than ever for us to continue to press for policy change at both the local and state level, from raising the tobacco age to 21, limiting youth access to menthol-, candy- and fruit- flavored tobacco, to keeping tobacco prices high and funding tobacco control programs.”
To read more about the case and see the ads that will appear on TV, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has a whole set of resources:
- Landing page with background information on the case, including a timeline of key legal milestones and Judge Kessler’s final opinion
- Information on when and where the ads will be running
- Shareable materials page—includes social media graphics, sample social media posts, and the television ads
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, the statewide coalition working on policy change to reduce youth smoking and to end the death and disease associated with tobacco use, as well as the Center for Prevention, will be sharing content on these ads and the court ruling on social media through their respective channels. Follow them both here: