Eleven years ago, writes historian Robert Proctor in The New York Times, a Federal District Court judge in Washington concluded after a nine-month trial that cigarette makers had committed fraud and violated racketeering statutes in a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. Judge Gladys Kessler didn’t mince words, ruling that Philip Morris and other tobacco companies had “marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.” This week, newspapers and television networks will begin carrying five “corrective statements” ordered by the court, shown above as printed in The Times. Altria, R. J. Reynolds, Lorillard and Philip Morris will be required to run statements five times a week on weekdays for one year on CBS, NBC and ABC; the statements will also appear in full-page ads on five Sundays between now and March in more than 50 leading newspapers.
Despite the corrective statements, tobacco companies still spend far more money persuading people to smoke than warning of the dangers. And, as Wall Street Journal columnist Jo Craven McGinty noted, “the nation’s 92 million millennials and teenagers may not get the message because the ads will run primarily on network television and newspapers. ‘That’s not where young people’s eyeballs are’, said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative, a nonprofit organization that campaigns against youth smoking.”