Major U.S. tobacco companies have started running ads in the Little Rock Sun and across the nation to comply with a 2006 federal court order after 11 years of appeals and litigation to weaken and delay it, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
The 2006 ruling required the companies to state the consequences of smoking and secondhand smoke. They were ordered to make these statements after they were found guilty of civil racketeering laws and lying to the public about smoking dangers and marketing to children.
“These ads serve as a reminder that tobacco’s terrible toll is no accident,” said Gary Wheeler, chief medical officer at Arkansas Department of Health. Deceptive and illegal actions of the tobacco industry have led to more than 750,000 tobacco users to become addicted to tobacco and the death of “tens of thousands of Arkansas smokers. These ads emphasize how important it is for our leaders to resist the undue influence of the tobacco industry and take evidence-based action to reduce tobacco use and save lives in Arkansas.”
Arkansas has the second-highest tobacco use rate in the nation, with one in four adults who smoke. In the state, 15.7% of high students smoke, and 1,700 children become regular smokers each year. Tobacco use has led to 5,800 deaths in Arkansas and $1.21 billion in healthcare costs annually, according to the health department.
Tobacco companies spend $107.3 million annually to market cigarettes and other tobacco products to young adults in Arkansas, said Appathurai Balamurugan, state chronic disease director at the Arkansas Department of Health. “Nine out of 10 tobacco users start before the age of 18. We’re hopeful these corrective statements will shine the light on the tobacco industry’s decades-long deceit and encourage the enactment of policies to help bring about the first tobacco-free generation.”
The corrective statements started running Nov. 26 in print and online in nearly 50 newspapers specified by the court. The newspaper ads must run in the front section of Sunday newspapers on Nov. 26, Dec. 10, Jan. 7, Feb. 4 and March 4. In Arkansas, the ads will run in the Little Rock Sun community newspaper. The ads also will run in the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Major TV networks will run ads during prime time for one year. The tobacco companies will pay for the ads and must publish the statements on their websites and cigarette packs.
In 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice sued cigarette manufacturers, Altria, its Philip Morris USA subsidiary and R.J. Reynolds, on charges they violated the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and other laws.