U.S. Judge Orders Tobacco Companies to ‘Confess’ Harms of Cigarette Smoking in Ads

Tobacco companies must start telling the stark truth about the effects of cigarette consumption in their marketing materials, a U.S. District Court judge has ordered.

Under the ruling, companies like R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and the Altria Group Inc. must provide “truth” statements in five categories:

  • death rates from smoking
  • addictiveness of nicotine
  • lack of health benefit from low tar, light, and “natural” cigarettes
  • how nicotine changes the brain and makes it hard to quit
  • how secondhand smoke damages health and kills Americans

The Winston-Salem Journal reported Nov. 27 that tobacco companies are likely to appeal the ruling on the grounds that it’s tantamount to a “forced public confession” and defies a previous court decision that corrective statements must be “purely factual and uncontroversial.” But anti-tobacco advocates say the latest decision is an important step towards curbing tobacco use.

“Without such an admission, the tobacco companies could turn the court’s requirement that they tell the truth into an opportunity to appear trustworthy, enabling them to continue deceiving the public,” says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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