A federal judge just issued an order mandating that major US tobacco companies remove ads discussing the health risks of smoking.
The decision followed a federal lawsuit filed in 1999 that alleged that the tobacco companies violated racketeering statutes that deceived consumers about smoking’s consequences, said CNN Money. The judge’s ruling against the defendants in a 2006 decision described the advertising requirements that were just finalized and which followed a massive $206 billion1998 settlement, according to CNN Money.
Now, defendants must publish web site statements, advertisements in newspapers and on television, and cigarette packaging inserts that acknowledge the consequences of cigarette smoking. The companies, said CNN Money, must acknowledge that:
- “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.”
- “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.”
- “Secondhand smoke kills over 3,000 Americans each year.”
Brian May, a spokesman for Philip Morris parent company, Altria Group, told CNN Money that the company was “studying the court’s decision” and Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, said his firm was “reviewing the judge’s ruling and considering next steps.” Lorillard Tobacco did not immediately respond to CNN Money’s request for comment.
The companies all fought against the mandated statements saying that parts of the statements were in violation of their First Amendment rights. The judge rejected this claim, said CNN Money. The firms were ordered to start discussing the ways in which they would implement the ruling.
We previously wrote that punitive damages of $25 million were granted to a plaintiff in a Florida tobacco lawsuit, bringing the total awarded in that case to $41 million. Earlier, Dorothy Alexander—who sued the Lorillard Tobacco Company, the oldest tobacco company in the U.S., for the wrongful death of her husband—was awarded $20 million in compensatory damages by a Dade County jury. The lawsuit alleged that Coleman Alexander died from small cell lung cancer, the result of his 40-year-addiction to cigarettes, including Kent brand cigarettes.
Dorothy Alexander was represented by Alex Alvarez of the Alvarez Law Firm in Coral Gables, Florida; Gary M. Paige of the Paige Law Firm in Belle Glade, Florida; and Jordan Chaikin, partner with Parker Waichman LLP in Bonita Springs, Florida
According to a prior press release issued by Parker Waichman LLP, jurors found that Lorillard was 80% responsible for Mr. Alexander’s death in 1995 and agreed his widow was entitled to punitive damages. In the damages phase, the jury was asked to award $12.6 million and came back with a total of $20 million. The award will be reduced to $16 million based on the 20% fault against Coleman.