Federal judge tells Big Tobacco, “quit wasting my damn time”

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Big Tobacco weasels

This is a great story.

I’ve posted earlier stories about as part of a Justice Department RICO (a federal racketeering law usually used against organized crime) lawsuit, Big Tobacco was ordered some time ago to come up with “corrective statements,” ie, full-age newspaper ads admitting that tobacco companies have lied and covered up about the dangers of smoking.

Well, those full-page ads have yet to show up, partly because Big Tobacco is wrangling big time with the courts about what it has to say in its “corrective” ads. This has actually been dragged out now for SEVEN years. (And that’s SEVEN years after all the appeals over the original order were exhausted). The final order was issued in May 2015, and still no ads.

The wording of the ads has been directed by federal court judge   Gladys Kessler (District of Columbia). The ads are supposed to hit on five major points:

* The adverse health effects of smoking;
* The addictiveness of smoking and nicotine;
* The lack of any significant health benefit from smoking “low tar” or “light” cigarettes;
* The manufacturers’ manipulation of cigarette design to ensure optimum nicotine delivery;
*  The dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke.

But the tobacco companies appealed. Apparently, the fifth total appeal filed by Big Tobacco in this case. Big Tobacco continues to try and weasel its way out of these corrective ads and Kessler is getting fed up:

From this story posted on the Consumerist blog:

“That is ridiculous — a waste of precious time, energy, and money for all concerned — and a loss of information for the public,” writes Kessler [PDF]. “The Court has no intention of following that path, although it is obvious that Defendants are, once again, attempting to stall any final outcome to this long-standing litigation.”

In her order, Kessler notes that the revision offered by the government and its allied public health groups should suffice, as it simply shortens the disputed preamble to “A Federal Court has ordered Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA to make this statement…”

“The newly crafted preambles do not in any way send a message to the public that Defendants deceived them in the past,” explains the judge, “nor that Defendants are being punished for their previous conduct.”

Apparently, one of the things the tobacco companies are asking for is having their corporate names removed from the corrective statement (By the way, they are ALTRIA, RJ REYNOLDS and BRITISH-AMERICAN TOBACCO)

ALTRIA, RJ REYNOLDS, BRITISH-AMERICAN TOBACCO. First Amendment, bitches!

They’re also fighting over ticky-tack language issues, such as not wanting the word “ordered” in the ad, and wanting that word replaced with “determined.”

From the Consumerist story:

A lawyer for one of the firms representing the public health groups involved in the case tells theNational Law Journal that everyone is onto the tobacco companies’ tactics.

“I think it’s safe to say that [Kessler] believes that the defendants are trying to delay the issuance of the corrective statements and that’s certainly the concern that my clients have had for many, many years,” he explains, “that the defendants have done and continue to do whatever they can to delay the day of reckoning.”

 

 

 

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