WASHINGTON (CN) – Major U.S. cigarette companies will start publishing a series of statements late next month that frankly describe the dangers of smoking.
The court-ordered “corrective statements” are the result of a 1999 lawsuit by the federal government, which accused the companies of conspiring to conceal the health risks of smoking dating back to the 1950s.
After Altria Group Inc. — the parent company of cigarette giant Philip Morris USA — announced earlier this week that it had reached an agreement with the Justice Department about the timing of the statements, and a federal court approved that plan on Thursday.
“Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day,” the first statement says.
“More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol, combined,” it continues.
Another statement describes the addictiveness of smoking, saying bluntly that “cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.”
The third statement says that light and natural cigarettes are no less harmful than regular cigarettes.
“All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death – lights, low tar, ultra lights and naturals. There is no safe cigarette,” it says.
Altria’s executive vice president Murray Garrick said in a written statement that the company is looking forward.
“We remain committed to aligning our business practices with society’s expectations of a responsible company,” Garrick said. “This includes communicating openly about the health effects of our products, continuing to support cessation efforts, helping reduce underage tobacco use and developing potentially reduced-risk products.”
Altria and Philip Morris, along with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Lorillard, will have to issue the corrective statements for a year or more in newspapers, online and on TV, as well as on their websites and cigarette packs.
The October 5 court ruling issued by U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman says the companies must publish full-page ads in the first section of dozens of newspapers, and contains great specificity about the appearance of the ads, mandating particular font styles, as well as their size.
“The text of each Corrective Statement will be centered vertically on the page, leaving equal white space above the first line of the preamble and after the last line of the bulleted text,” the ruling states.
The companies will also have to publish corrective statements in Spanish-language newspapers, in the online versions of the newspapers, and in spots on one of three major TV networks – CBS, ABC or NBC – five times per week.