Fall 2017 Updates from the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium Bulletin
Court Ordered Corrective Statements:
On October 5, a federal judge signed an order requiring that major U.S. tobacco companies began publishing “corrective statement” ads in November, especially highlighting the terrible health risks of smoking. This comes more than 11 years after a federal court ordered the companies to issue these statements as part of a landmark judgment issued in August 2006, in the historic tobacco racketeering lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote a 1,683 page opinion holding the tobacco companies accountable for violating RICO, (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) an act from October 15 1970 relating to the control of organized crime in the US. She found that the companies had greatly deceived the American public for at least 50 years by fraudulently covering up the health risks associated with smoking, as well as shamelessly marketing their products to children. These corrective statements are intended to partly address the tobacco companies’ many lies about the dangers posed by smoking cigarettes.
The statements will appear in at least 45 newspapers, on major television networks, and elsewhere, and will cover 5 broad topics:
The nasty health effects of smoking
The addictiveness of smoking and nicotine
The lack of significant health benefit from smoking “low-tar” and “light” cigarettes
The manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery
The harmful health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Kids, Cars, and Smoking:
Secondhand tobacco smoke is a toxic air contaminant that can reach unsafe levels in enclosed spaces such as homes, and vehicles etc. That secondhand exposure in cars can endanger children’s health severely. With organs that are smaller and still developing, children exposed regularly to secondhand smoke are more vulnerable to increased and severe common childhood illnesses and are at higher risks for serious, long-term diseases. A growing number of states are considering and passing laws prohibiting smoking in vehicles when children are passengers.
Since 2006 Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and the two territories Guam and Puerto Rico, have successfully enacted and implemented smoke-free vehicle policies regardless of if it is stationary or not. Ranging from children under 8 (VT) to any passenger present under 18 (CA), complete with punishments of community service and fines anywhere from $25 to $2,000, this is a surely a small victory in the right direction. Despite these small successes, such smoke-free measures often face harsh criticism and opposition from those who express concern about potential enforcement issues along with seeming to invade on one’s privacy. However, with other countries like England and Wales following the trend, it is fair to say that a young person's health must be the priority in these situations.