This week, new ads exposing the lies tobacco companies told for decades will begin appearing on Minnesota television stations and in print media. Run by the cigarette companies themselves, the ads are the result of a civil court ruling that found they deceived the public about the health dangers of smoking, beginning in the 1950s.
“Minnesotans should be disgusted at the immoral business practices of this industry,” said our CEO, David J. Willoughby. “These ads show how Big Tobacco hid their knowledge of the links between smoking, addiction, disease and death, and how they fraudulently promoted certain cigarettes as ‘less harmful’ in order to deter smokers from quitting.”
The court case began in 1999, when the U.S. Justice Department sued companies including Philip Morris (now Altria), R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard for violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled against the companies and ordered them to publicize “corrective statements” in 2006, but the industry has spent the last 11 years pursuing appeals. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the industry’s case, meaning the 2006 ruling will finally be enforced.
The corrective statements, which will be broadcast on limited television programs and published in one Minnesota newspaper, show that for decades the tobacco companies:
· Hid what they knew about the devastating health harms of cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure;
· Lied about the addictive properties of nicotine;
· Falsely claimed that filtered and “light” cigarettes were healthier than other kinds; and
· Manipulated the product design of cigarettes to make them even more addictive.
In addition to these points, Judge Kessler’s ruling noted other offenses committed by the industry, including the deliberate targeting of youth as “replacement smokers” to take the place of those who quit or died.
“These corrective statements show exactly what the tobacco companies lied about repeatedly for years,” said Mr. Willoughby. “Despite the limited release of these ads, we will be helping to spread the word to policymakers, opinion leaders and the public. We must expose the true nature of this ruthless industry, and do what we can, including helping smokers quit and passing policies that reduce smoking, to undo the damage they have done in our state, our country and the world.”