Six years ago, a federal district court determined that tobacco companies “‘knew there was a consensus in the scientific community that smoking caused lung cancer and other diseases’ by at least January 1964,” and that they nonetheless engaged in a campaign to “mislead the public about the health consequences of smoking.” In that 2006 order, the court indicated that the tobacco industry would be required to publish several “corrective statements” explaining the truth to the public.
Half a dozen years and three trips to the court of appeals later, the district court finally issued an order yesterday laying out the corrective statements the tobacco companies are required to publish. The statements consist of five sets of bullet points, each presaged by a statement that “A Federal Court has ruled that the Defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public . . . and has ordered those companies to make this statement. Here is the truth[.]” The bullet points include a long list of statements outlining dangers of smoking that, for years, the tobacco industry tried to cover up:
- Smoking kills, on average, 1200 Americans. Every day.
- Secondhand smoke kills over 3,000 Americans each year.
- More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.
- Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia, and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder, and pancreas.
- Smoking also causes reduced fertility, low birth weight in newborns, and cancer of the cervix and uterus.
- Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.
- Cigarette companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways, including designing filters and selecting cigarette paper to maximize the ingestion of nicotine, adding ammonia to make the cigarette taste less harsh, and controlling the physical and chemical make-up of the tobacco blend.
- When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that’s why quitting is so hard.
Under the court’s order, these statements will be “published in newspapers and disseminated ‘through television, advertisements, onserts, in retail displays, and on [tobacco companies'] corporate websites.’” The order will appeal to the severely conservative United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a court that includes two judges that recently suggested all labor, business or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect, so there is no small amount of risk that the tobacco companies will escape having to comply with yesterday’s order. The court of appeals previously affirmed the district court’s approach to this case, however, so a tobacco industry victory is less likely than the D.C. Circuit’s pro-corporate record might suggest.