Sixteen Year Anniversary of Final Ruling in U.S. vs Philip Morris USA Inc, et. al.
Point-of-Sale Corrective Statements Coming Soon
On August 17, 2006, a federal court ruled that tobacco companies violated racketeering laws and outlined several remedies for companies to comply with to prevent and restrain future fraud by an industry that lied to the American people for decades. Judge Gladys Kessler noted in her 1,683-page ruling, “As set forth in these Final Proposed Findings of Fact, substantial evidence establishes that Defendants have engaged in and executed – and continue to engage in and execute (emphasis added) – a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.”
Due to improper political interference, there were many times when the case could have been settled or watered down, but under the leadership of the Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK) Action Fund, a total of six organizations petitioned the court to serve as Public Health Intervenors in the case. Judge Gladys Kessler, on July 22, 2005, granted a motion to intervene, making them formal parties to the lawsuit and granting them similar opportunities as the government and the tobacco company defendants to present arguments on appropriate remedies to the court. In addition to TFK Action Fund, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network served as Intervenors, filing multiple legal briefs and other supporting documents during the trial and appeals phases of the case. The court allowed us as third-party groups to join the suit because we each represented our members and/or the public interest and as such, had a vested interest in the outcome of the litigation.
One remedy ordered companies to make corrective statements to clarify to the public the true effects of tobacco use. After innumerable appeals and delays, the Department of Justice and the Intervenors reached an agreement that requires tobacco companies to place “corrective statements” about the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke in retail outlets that sell tobacco. The agreement requires the tobacco companies to display signage about the deadly consequences of smoking and requires that this signage be near cigarette displays in retail outlets across the country. While the agreement is not perfect, it will, in principle, hold the tobacco industry accountable for decades of deception and manipulation by placing information at the point where the purchase decision is made, and hopefully prevent another generation addicted to nicotine.
The Public Health Intervenors were critical partners to ensure that the remedies were upheld and implemented as intended in Judge Kessler’s ruling. Despite Judge Kessler’s findings and remedies, tobacco companies continue to deceive the public, manipulate science, and interfere with local, state, and national policies related to smokefree laws, tobacco product sales, and marketing and advertising of addictive and deadly tobacco products. We as a public health community and advocates for health equity must continue to play the role of watch dog and hold tobacco companies and their subsidiaries accountable to protect public health. ANR will continue to track and expose industry interference and advocate vigorously for smokefree air for all.
For more background on DOJ’s RICO case against Big Tobacco, read “Bad Acts, The Racketeering Case Against the Tobacco Industry” by Sharon Eubanks and Stanton Glantz. It is chock-full of behind-the-scenes details about the case and the individuals involved, including a chapter on the Intervenors. Contact us if you would like to purchase one of the very few copies ANR still has to sell.