Health-e (Cape Town)

6 December 2012

South Africa: U.S Judge Orders Cigarette Companies to Correct Lies About Smoking

A US judge has ordered tobacco companies to run advertising campaigns admitting that they lied to the public about the dangers of smoking, and acknowledge that cigarettes kill about 1 200 American smokers a day.

The order follows a 2006 judgement by US District Judge Gladys Kessler that leading tobacco companies violated federal anti-racketeering laws by misleading the public about the harm of smoking so as "to make money with little if any regard for individual illness and suffering ".

To prevent and restrain the companies from continuing to make false claims, Judge Kessler had ordered them in 2006 to make "truthful corrective statements".

There followed six-years of debate on the wording of the statements and Kessler's latest ruling aims to finalise the five different statements the companies will be required to use. These include:

* Smoking kills, on average, 1 200 Americans. Every day.

* More people [in the US] die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol combined.

* Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.

* All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature deaths – lights, low tar, ultra lights and natural. There is no safe cigarette.

* Second hand smoke kills over 3 000 American each year.

Each statement will begin by saying 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 advertisements are to appear on television, in newspapers, on tobacco packages and corporate websites for as long as two years and will be paid for by the cigarette manufacturers.

Judge Kessler considered whether the “corrective statements” would violate the companies’ rights but concluded they would not as the final wording is “purely factual” and not controversial.

“Requiring the cigarette companies to tell the American public the truth is a start but not enough,” says Dr Yussuf Saloojee of the National Council Against Smoking in South Africa. “This is a rogue industry which uses the same underhand marketing tactics all around the world. People everywhere deserve to know the truth about this industry and its deceitful behaviour.”

The NCAS called on the health minister to study the judgement and institute similar action in South Africa where smoking kills around 44 400 people a year.

Source: National Council Against Smoking

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