How Will Tobacco Companies’ Ads Say Sorry To Americans?

Do you remember when your mom made you apologize to your brother for being mean and you just repeated what she said word-for-word? Did you actually mean any of it? No, didn’t think so. That appears to be the same case with a mock-up of the ad tobacco companies may use to apologize to consumers for hiding the dangers of tobacco.

Last week, the Department of Justice and tobacco companies came to an agreement for an advertising campaign of “corrective statements” highlighting how the companies defrauded consumers. The ads must appear as online and full-page print ads in the Sunday editions of the top 35 newspapers in the county, on prime-time television on the three major networks for one year, as well as on packages of cigarettes.

A sample mock-up advertisement, shown on the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network website, is straight and to the point. No bells and whistles here.

The ad reads: “A Federal Court has ruled that Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Altria deliberately deceived the American public about designing cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine and has ordered those companies to make this statement.”

The ad goes on to pinpoint three specific claims:

  • that tobacco companies designed cigarettes to make them more addictive
  • companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways
  • that nicotine “changes the brain,” making it hard to quit

Before the ads come to a newspaper near you, Judge Gladys Kessler will review the agreement.

The corrective statement ad campaign stems from the 2006 judgement by Kessler that found tobacco companies guilty of violating civil racketeering laws and lying to the public about the dangers of smoking. The judgement resulted from a 1999 lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice charging tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Here’s What It Looks Like When a Tobacco Company Says “I’m Sorry” [National Journal]