Tobacco Companies to Begin Issuing Court-Ordered Statements in Tobacco Racketeering Suit
Several of America’s major cigarette manufacturers will begin issuing court-ordered “corrective statements” in major daily newspapers and on television beginning Friday, November 24, 2017. The statements will clarify for the public the effects of tobacco use and will appear in full-page print ads in the editions of more than 50 newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, and Washington Post over four months. The same statements will also appear in television markets across the country beginning the following week for the next year.
Following a nine-month civil racketeering trial, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the tobacco companies, including Altria, its Philip Morris USA subsidiary, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, to issue the corrective statements as part of a permanent injunction in 2006 designed to “prevent and restrain” further deception of the American people regarding tobacco use. Multiple appeals following the 2006 permanent injunction delayed issuance of the statements until now.
In its 2006 permanent injunction, the district court found that “Defendants lied, misrepresented, and deceived the American public,” on a host of topics. These topics included:
- Fraudulently distorting and minimizing the health effects of smoking;
- Falsely denying and minimizing the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine;
- Designing cigarettes to create addiction;
- Fraudulently presenting light/low-tar cigarettes as less dangerous;
- Falsely denying marketing to youth; and
- Falsely denying the hazards of secondhand smoke.
The court concluded that, absent court action, the tobacco companies were “reasonably likely” to continue engaging in this behavior and imposed a permanent injunction to prevent future violations. Among other things, this injunction requires the tobacco companies to issue these “corrective statements” in multiple mediums: newspaper, television, company websites, and package “onserts.” Another placement for the statements, at retail point-of-sale, was set aside on appeal by the D.C. Circuit, and whether to reinstate it remains pending before the district court.
Numerous Justice Department attorneys have played a role in this case over the years. In the most recent phase of the litigation, the United States was represented by Trial Attorneys Daniel K. Crane-Hirsch and John (Josh) Burke of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch; Linda McMahon of the Commercial Litigation Branch; and Melissa Patterson, Alisa Klein, Mark Stern, and Lewis Yelin of the Civil Appellate Staff.
Six public health organizations – the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund – joined the Department of Justice case as intervenors in 2005.