US court orders tobacco firms to admit lying with ads

Cigarette smoking
A person smoking used to illustrate the story.

Tobacco companies in US allegedly lied about dangers of smoking.

A U.S. judge has ordered tobacco firms to pay a retribution for a public campaign that lied over smoking risks.

Major tobacco companies have spent decades denying they lied to the American public about the dangers of cigarettes.

The ruling said the companies should fund a two year ad campaign containing series of “corrective statements” as an expiation for the companies’ “past deception” dating back to at least 1964.

Tuesday’s ruling by District Judge Gladys Kessler aims to finalise the wording of five different statements the companies will be required to use for the expiation ad campaign.

The companies can appeal the judgement but none has indicated interest.

One of the sentences include a wording that read: “A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public by falsely selling and advertising low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes.”

Another statement includes the wording: “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.”

The wording was applauded by anti tobacco advocates who have followed the case for decades.

“Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-tobacco group in Washington, said.

“These statements do exactly what they should do. They’re clear, to the point, easy to understand, no legalese, no scientific jargon, just the facts,” Ellen Vargyas, general counsel for the American Legacy Foundation told UK Guardian.

Nigerian anti tobacco activists believe the country also suffer similar deception by tobacco companies.

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, a Nigerian leading environment and anti-tobacco group, says Nigerians suffer advertising, economic, social, and health deceptions by tobacco companies.

Two people are believed to die in Lagos from tobacco related ailments daily.

“The judgment is a wakeup call to Nigerian government to stop dilly-dallying on strict regulations of the tobacco industry,” Bode Olufemi of ERA said.


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