A lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 1999 against tobacco giants is seeing further steps implemented in the fight to curb cigarette-related health issues. The 2006 ruling in the case saw an order issued May 1 that had tobacco firms post health warning statements on their websites.
The suit seeks to make tobacco producers responsible for the decades they spent deceiving customers about the dangers of their product. The 2006 ruling has been attempting to ensure the companies issue "corrective statements", as called in the case, regarding the risks of smoking, a move the cigarette makers have fought with appeals.
Defrauding the public, however, will likely be much harder with the new measures. Tobacco and cigarette brand websites now feature corrective statements introduced by the following sentence: "A Federal Court has ordered Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA to make this statement about the health effects of smoking."
The intro leads to five sections: "Health effects of smoking, Addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, Low tar and light cigarettes being as harmful as regular cigarettes, Designing cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine and Health effects of secondhand smoke." Clicking on each one provides additional information on the topics including some frightening statistics.
Visitors to the sites are informed that smoking kills 1,200 Americans a day, causing more deaths yearly than "from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined." The statements also detail the alarming list of smoking-caused diseases, effects of second-hand smoke on children and more disturbing data and facts bound to deter even the most passionate of smokers.
More measures taken
This is just the latest addition to the 2006 ruling. Previous measures saw Altria and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco fund a TV ad campaign with similar messages.
The move came after much resistance from the companies. Next, the tobacco producers will also be forced to publish statements on their cigarette pack inserts by November 21 that will run for 12 weeks over two years.
The website statements, however, are here to stay. Murray Garnick, Altria's executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement last October that the measures were approved by the company.
"This industry has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, including becoming regulated by the FDA, which we supported. We're focused on the future and, with FDA in place, working to develop less risky tobacco products," Garnick stated.
The company now claims it "aspires to be the U.S. leader in authorized, non-combustible, reduced-risk products." Time will tell whether a market will exist for Altria's new approach.
However, data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that smoking among US adults declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 15.55% in 2016 and that quitting was on the rise. “These findings also show that more people are quitting, and those who continue to smoke are smoking less," said Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.