On Tuesday a federal judge ruled that tobacco companies must spend their own money to fund a public awareness ad campaign in which they admit to intentionally and repeatedly deceiving the American people about the dangers of smoking.
While some of the campaign’s details have yet to be determined (i.e. how much it will cost and which media will publish it), the judge did require the companies to use five specific statements in their ads. The first: “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 particularly pointed statement simply reads: “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day”. There’s a line you never heard coming from the Marlboro Man’s mouth.
Ellen Vargyas of the American Legacy Foundation, which is known for its “Truth” anti-smoking campaign, 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”. Unsurprisingly, big tobacco’s representatives were less vocal about the ruling. Bryan Hatchell, spokesman for Reynolds American Inc. said, “We are reviewing the judge’s ruling and considering next steps”, while a Philip Morris USA rep simply said that the company would be studying the decision.
We’ll keep you posted as the story progresses; an appeal seems all but inevitable. For now, though, we can file this case under major, long-time-coming wins for transparency in advertising on behalf of a bombarded public.