Federal judge orders Philip Morris to admit to deceiving public

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday ordered [opinion, PDF] cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris, Inc. [corporate website] to issue public corrective statements after decades of concealing the health risks and addictive qualities of cigarette smoking. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed suit against the company in 1999 alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The court held in 2004 that Philip Morris had "knowingly and intentionally" conspired to defraud smokers and potential smokers "for purposes of financial gain ... [by] repeatedly, consistently, vigorously" and falsely denying adverse health effects and addictive qualities in public despite the company's own "massive" collection of scientific research confirming otherwise. After the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] affirmed in 2009, Judge Gladys Kessler on Tuesday required that the company must issue approved corrective statements to be published in newspapers and disseminated through television advertisements, retail displays and corporate websites. The order includes statements such as: "Here is the truth: Smoking kills, on average, 1200 Americans. Every day" and "[m]ore people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined." Kessler also recommended that the parties meet with a Special Master to reach an agreement regarding this issue by March 1, 2013.

Tobacco labeling and advertising have been litigated for years. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in August that tobacco companies do not need to print graphic warnings [JURIST report] of the dangers of smoking on cigarette packages. In a 2-1 decision, the DC Circuit struck down a Food and Drug Administration regulation that requires tobacco companies to display graphic images such as a man smoking a cigarette through a hole in his throat. Also in August, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire revoked class action status [JURIST Report] in a lawsuit challenging the labeling of "light" cigarettes. In July the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit struck down [JURIST report] a New York City Department of Health regulation requiring stores to display graphic anti-tobacco ads where tobacco products are sold.

 

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