One of the bigger bullies in the business world was served a large plate of humble pie on Nov. 27 when a federal judge ordered the tobacco industry to publish corrective statements saying that companies had lied about the dangers of smoking. The statements must also disclose tobacco’s ill health effects, including the smoking-related deaths of 1,200 people a day, on average.
The judge, Gladys Kessler of United States District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that the industry will have to pay for the corrective statements in various types of advertisements. Each ad is required to begin with a statement that a federal court has found that the defendant tobacco companies “deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking.”
Tobacco companies had urged Kessler to reject the government’s proposed corrective statements — which stemmed from a case brought against the industry by the Justice Department in 1999. The companies called them “forced public confessions.” Kessler replied, “This court made a number of explicit findings that the tobacco companies perpetuated fraud and deceived the public regarding the addictiveness of cigarettes and nicotine.”
Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, wrote in a statement, “[The] ruling is a critical step toward ending decades of tobacco industry deception that has resulted in millions of premature deaths, untold suffering and billions in health care costs. Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing.”