Some things never change, but that doesn’t mean we accept them. Today marks the 15 year anniversary of the RICO verdict in the Department of Justice case against Big Tobacco. Judge Gladys Kessler concluded that the tobacco industry constituted an illegal racketeering enterprise that is likely to continue defrauding the public. She was not wrong. The tobacco industry has profited far too much for far too long to change its playbook. Deception and misinformation are part of the industry’s formula for success. The industry and its pro-smoking allies are still aggressively searching for opportunities to undermine tobacco control policies, including long-standing smokefree protections in communities throughout the country.
In recent months, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of municipalities considering rollbacks to their comprehensive smokefree ordinances to create exemptions for cigar bars. The efforts are unexpected, and even unprompted, in many communities. And in the absence of public demand for the compromise, local decision makers still seem pressed to consider the rollback. Why? Because the industry still continues to mask the dangers of its products with deception and misinformation. By promoting cigars as less harmful and cigar bars as a solution for economic recovery, the tobacco industry is strategically working to make smoking fun again.
The tobacco industry cares little about economic recovery, but it sees an untapped market for its own financial interests. Whether its working to compromise strong smokefree laws with exemptions and rollbacks, reinforcing tobacco addiction in casinos and gaming establishments, shamelessly targets kids with e-cigarettes social influencers, or ignoring science on the health effects of its products – the industry continues to be a bad actor with a track record of capitalizing off of vulnerable populations – trading people for profits at any cost. We don’t expect the leopard to change its spots, but we will continue to call it out where we see it and organize our partners and allies to stand up and fight for public health.
Read more about the case from our sister organization, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
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Message from Sharon Eubanks