August 18, 2006
Big Tobacco's recent public relations "extreme makeover" to seem more socially responsible took a very bad turn this week.
America's tobacco companies, including Philip Morris (Altria) and R.J. Reynolds, were found GUILTY on federal racketeering charges in the long-running Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The court's 1652 page ruling exposes the tobacco companies in detail for what they really are: rogue, murderous companies bent on ensnaring the world in their web nicotine addiction and killing people for profit through a system of deceit and lying.
Tobacco companies will try to put a positive spin on this guilty verdict, but it is ultimately a devastating loss for Big Tobacco. Rather than getting an out of court settlement, they were found guilty of lying on a massive scale, racketeering, and causing unprecedented human suffering and death. Many more pages of damning internal documents will now be available for public and legal scrutiny. Big Tobacco will now be held more accountable for its aggressive marketing efforts worldwide.
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found the tobacco companies guilty of over fifty years of conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, which has lead to the deaths and suffering of millions of people.
The ruling also says that the tobacco companies "marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted."
Among the key remedies ordered by the court:
- The tobacco companies must make corrective public statements about the health
hazards of secondhand smoke and smoking.
- The companies are ordered to stop using deceptive descriptors for cigarettes, such as light, "low tar," or "natural, that convey that they are less hazardous than other cigarettes.
Unfortunately, Judge Kessler felt unable to levy more comprehensive remedies, such as funding a national cessation program, based on an earlier appellate court ruling. This means it is now more urgent than ever before for local and state lawmakers to show leadership for enacting smokefree workplace protections and tobacco prevention programs that save lives and money from the needless death, disease, and suffering caused by tobacco.
ANR, one of six health groups that formally intervened in the case, will work to ensure that maximum accountability is levied on the tobacco companies for their decades of lying about the health hazards of secondhand smoke.