Tobacco companies forced to ‘fess up’ in court-ordered ads


After 11 years of appeals, major tobacco manufacturers are finally going to air court-ordered commercials detailing the dangers of smoking.
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The makers of Marlboro, Camel and Newport cigarettes admit in new court-ordered ads that the brands knowingly designed cigarettes to keep people addicted to nicotine, altering their brains and killing 1,200 Americans each day.

The company-funded ads come after tobacco titans tried for a decade to slow down and weaken their debut after a 2006 ruling. A yearlong parade of TV and newspaper ads began this week, but a now-shifted media landscape may render them less effective. 

“It’s a pretty significant moment,” Cliff Douglas, a vice president of the American Cancer Society, told NBC News. “This is the first time they have had to ‘fess up and tell the whole truth.”

A 1999 Justice Department lawsuit against owners of Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds led to a federal order for the tobacco companies to issue “corrective statements” to offset decades of lies and manipulation. But a flood of legal appeals let companies push back the ads for 11 years, a span during which TV and newspaper audiences have dwindled.

“It has been a long fight,” Robin Koval, president of the anti-smoking nonprofit Truth Initiative, told NBC News. She added: “Not as much will be seen by young people, who spend less and less of their time watching prime-time television.”

Companies spend $8 billion a year marketing cigarettes in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission found. The anti-smoking ads will cost just a fraction of that — an estimated $30 million, per ABC News — to run starting this week on on primetime TV and in some 50 newspapers. 

The court-ordered text tells audiences that tobacco companies altered cigarettes to maximize addiction, that “light” cigarettes aren’t safer than regular ones and that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer.

Legal maneuvering will let companies not admit they lied in advertising and avoid showing photos of smoking’s affects on the body, according to NBC News.

“We’re focused on the future,” said Murray Garnick, executive vice president of Phillip Morris owner Altria. The company is “working to develop less risky tobacco products,” he said in a statement.


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