Cigarette companies have conspired for decades to defraud and mislead the public about the health risks of “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes, a federal appeals court said yesterday. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that a federal district judge was right to ban the terms from appearing on cigarette packages. Under the ruling, cigarette companies may soon be required to issue a public mea culpa admitting that they were killing people when they said cigarettes were safe and non-addictive.
The court said the tobacco companies “knew about the negative health consequences of smoking, the addictiveness and manipulation of nicotine, the harmfulness of secondhand smoke, and the concept of smoker compensation, which makes light cigarettes no less harmful than regular cigarettes and possibly more.”
The court also said the government had adequately proven that the tobacco industry was likely to commit future racketeering violations unless restrictions were imposed.
In a 2006 opinion that logged 1,653 pages, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ordered a variety of marketing, sales and advertising restrictions on the tobacco industry, including an order that barred cigarette makers from promoting brands as “light” or “low tar.”
That ban is sure to force major changes in tobacco marketing because most cigarettes sold in the U.S. carry light and low-tar labels.
The companies have vowed to defend their besmirched name with an appeal to either the full D.C. Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.
CORRECT: Appeals Court Largely Upholds Ruling Vs Tobacco Cos [Dow Jones]
Altria, Cigarette Makers Lose ‘Lights’ Ruling Appeal [Bloomberg]
(Photo: Welvis Tarn)