Fifteen years ago, the Department of Justice sued the major cigarette companies, alleging that the companies conspired to mislead consumers about the risks of tobacco products. The US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled for DOJ, and the ruling was upheld on appeal. Among other things, to remedy the companies’ misleading statements, the court ordered them to put out advertisements correcting their lies and to stop marketing cigarettes as “light” or “low-tar.”
The court previously approved the text of the corrective messages, and that order is on appeal. On Friday, DOJ and the companies reached an agreement on the format and placement of the messages. They agreed that they will appear in the print and online editions of newspapers, on television, and on the companies’ websites. The agreement also provides that additional information on the adverse health effects of smoking will appear on cigarette packages.
The previously court-approved text of the messages will explain that a federal court found that the four companies “deliberately deceived the American public,” describe companies’ wrongdoing, and include correct public health information concerning the dangers of smoking and its addictiveness, second-hand smoke, and the truth about low-tar and light cigarettes.
Tobacco-control groups, which participated in the litigation as intervenors, issued a press release characterizing the agreement as an “important step forward.”