15th Anniversary of the RICO Verdict
15 years later and the leopard still hasn’t changed its spots:
INDUSTRY STONEWALLING CORRECTIVE STATEMENTS AT THE POINT OF SALE
August 17, 2021, marks the 15 year anniversary of the RICO verdict in the Department of Justice case against Big Tobacco.
Fifteen years ago, a federal court ruled that tobacco companies violated racketeering laws and ordered them to make corrective statements to clarify to the public the true effects of tobacco use. Not all of the remedies have been fully implemented due to ongoing industry efforts trying to avoid making RICO Corrective Statements at the Point of Sale.The tobacco industry swore back then it had changed—and that it would change even more. But it still is behaving as it always has (and as Judge Kessler predicted).
Corrective Statements from the tobacco companies were published in newspapers, on television and on their websites in 2017, but they were also required to ensure that Corrective Statements were placed at the point of sale – in retail areas where cigarettes are sold. An evidentiary hearing on the point-of-sale remedy was to begin on July 12, 2021; however, in April the cigarette manufacturers and the retail trade associations that are participating in this phase of the case vigorously objected to conducting any of the trial “virtually.” Judge Friedman issued an order postponing the evidentiary hearing for what may turn out to be another year. The Judge ultimately concluded that it would be prudent to postpone the trial in order to avoid any claim on appeal that the hearing procedures were somehow unfair to the retailers.
Judge Gladys Kessler noted in her 1,683 page ruling, “As set forth in these Final Proposed Findings of Fact, substantial evidence establishes that Defendants have engaged in and executed – and continue to engage in and execute (emphasis added) – a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.” Once again, the tobacco industry is utilizing all of its usual tactics to undermine public health protections and continue to mislead the public about the health hazards of tobacco products.
Big Tobacco still interferes with public health policy; it shamelessly targets kids with e-cigarettes, social influencers and flavors; it ignores science on the health effects of its products on users and nonusers, and works to undermine remedies designed to prevent additional misdeeds.
On May 22, 2009 the D.C. Circuit Division affirmed Judge Gladys Kessler's conclusion that the tobacco industry constituted an illegal racketeering enterprise that is likely to continue defrauding the public.
On August 17, 2006, nearly one year after Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and five other public health groups (American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund) intervened in the case, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued her final opinion in the government's long-standing racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
Judge Kessler’s decision contained numerous findings, including the following regarding Secondhand Smoke (referred to as ETS in the decision) (emphasis added):
“Defendants have publicly denied what they internally acknowledged: that ETS is hazardous to nonsmokers”
“Internally, Defendants recognized that ETS is hazardous to nonsmokers”
“Internally, Defendants expressed concern that the mounting evidence on ETS posed a grave threat to their industry”
“Defendants undertook joint efforts to undermine and discredit the scientific consensus that ETS causes disease”
“Defendants made false and misleading public statements denying that ETS is hazardous to nonsmokers”
“Defendants continue to obscure the fact that ETS is hazardous to nonsmokers”
Among the remedies imposed by Judge Kessler were a requirement that the tobacco companies make corrective statements in various media outlets, including the following one:
"Each Defendant shall be required to make separate corrective statements concerning the following: (a) the adverse health effects of smoking; (b) the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; (c) the lack of any significant health benefit from smoking “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild,” and “natural,” cigarettes; (d) Defendants’ manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery; and (e) the adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS).”
On September 1 2006, two weeks after this scathing indictment of the industry and its business practices, Philip Morris filed documents with the court requesting that it be permitted to continue using the terms “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild,” and “natural,” cigarettes outside of the United States, somehow believing that exporting its lies would be acceptable. This action further demonstrates that the industry cannot and should not be trusted to tell the truth about its products or the health effects of secondhand smoke. It is now clearer than ever that the tobacco industry has no standing to interfere with local and state lawmakers in public health legislation.
Is there a cancer on the Justice Department?
An Ad Run By ANR
ANR was active in holding Big Tobacco accountable. View our old ad.
Big Tobacco Lied
Judge Gladys Kessler issued her ruling in the Department of Justice Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) racketeering case against tobacco companies on August 17, 2006. One of the critical remedies in the case called for the tobacco companies to issue Corrective Statements about what the industry knew about cigarettes and failed to disclose to the public. The industry’s lawyers have made multiple appeals over the last 11 years to oppose the requirement for Corrective Statements, but finally ceased doing so this year. We will see the first of the Corrective Statements in newspapers and on tobacco company websites in November 2017. ANR has served as one of six public health intervenors in the case.
Corrective Statements Finally Starting After 11 Year Delay
Tobacco companies lied for decades about the health risks of secondhand smoke.
Now they will finally have to make corrective statements 11 years after being found in violation of federal racketeering laws. Text of Corrective Statements.
Big Tobacco’s efforts to raise doubt through junk science about the health research on secondhand smoke needlessly led to many preventable deaths through delayed policy change in communities and states across the country.
Today, millions of people are still exposed to cigarette smoke inside buildings in part due to the legacy of Big Tobacco’s fake science and talking points which promoted air curtains, HVAC systems, smoking rooms, and other tricks to keep smoking indoors despite the health hazards.
Let’s be clear. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Ventilation systems, smoking rooms, and smoking sections do not protect people from the deadly health hazards of secondhand smoke. People working in casinos, bars, or elsewhere in the hospitality sector shouldn’t have to get sick from breathing at work. See the press release here from ANR and other intervenors in the Department of Justice racketeering case.
Casinos that falsely claim that their HVAC systems or smoking areas address secondhand smoke should be mindful of the liability implications of knowingly serving up toxic air to employees and customers. The only known way to prevent the health hazards of secondhand smoke is with a smokefree environment.