Tobacco companies to run new court-ordered ads nationwide

Starting this week, Montanans will begin to see new television and newspaper ads placed by the major U.S. tobacco companies that focus on the deadly consequences of smoking and secondhand smoke. The companies are placing the ads as a result of a recent federal court ruling.

A federal court in 2006 ordered the companies to make “corrective statements” after finding the companies deceived the public about the dangers of smoking and how they marketed to children. The ads will run after 11 years of appeals by the tobacco companies aimed at weakening and delaying the statements. They even fought (successfully) to remove the phrase ‘here is the truth’ from the corrective statements, which would have highlighted the fact that the industry deliberately deceived the public.

“Each year, tobacco costs Montana 1,600 lives and $440 million in health care expenditures, including $81 million in Medicaid dollars,” said DPHHS State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman. “These ads serve as a reminder that tobacco’s terrible toll is no accident. It is caused directly by the deceptive tobacco industry.”

In Montana alone, 12.1 percent of high school students still smoke, and 400 kids become regular smokers each year, contributing to thousands of premature deaths due to smoking.

On Aug. 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued her verdict against the companies. In a 1,683-page final opinion, she detailed how the tobacco companies “have marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception, with a singled-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.” Importantly, Judge Kessler concluded, “The evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity.”

Judge Kessler ordered the tobacco companies to publish corrective statements on five topics about which they had deliberately deceived the public:

• the adverse health effects of smoking;

• addictiveness of smoking and nicotine;

• lack of significant health benefit from smoking “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild” and “natural” cigarettes (products that have been deceptively marketed as less harmful than regular cigarettes);

• manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery; and

• adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The corrective statement ads started running Nov. 26 in print and online in about 50 newspapers specified by the court. They will also run during prime time on the major television networks for one year. The tobacco companies must also publish the corrective statements on their websites and cigarette packs.

For help quitting, call the Montana Tobacco Quit Line, a free service available to all Montanans who would like to quit using all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Calling the Quit Line is toll-free at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669), or visit the website at www.QuitNowMontana.com to enroll.

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