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Director's Column: Tobacco Industry Guilty of Lying to Public, Must Issue Corrective Statements

In 2006, tobacco companies were found guilty of breaking civil racketeering laws, lying to the public about the dangers of smoking and marketing to children. After 11 years of litigation, the companies are now forced to take action and admit their guilt in national media and on cigarette packaging.

For the first time since the 1960’s tobacco companies will be airing television ads in November – to admit to the American public that they lied, deceived and failed to disclose the health hazards of cigarettes and the addictiveness of nicotine.

Lorillard Inc.; Altria, owner of Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., owner of Winston-Salem are required to publish corrective and educational statements about the dangers of tobacco in the Sunday editions of 35 newspapers nationwide and on the newspapers’ websites. They are also required to air the corrective statements on ABC, CBS or NBC five times per week for a year. In Oklahoma, corrective statements will appear in the Black Chronicle, per the Judge’s order.

They have to address the adverse health effects of smoking, the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, the lack of significant health benefit from switching to low tar, light or ultra-light cigarettes, the manipulation of cigarette design to increase nicotine levels delivered to smokers, and the adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke, which kills 50,000 nonsmokers every year in the U.S. and has over 70 cancer-causing chemicals.

In Oklahoma, smoking kills more than 7,500 adults annually and leaves thousands suffering with chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. That means the families of 7,500 people in this state alone are without their loved one because of tobacco. That means that 7,500 people won’t have the chance to celebrate another holiday or birthday with their family and friends.

The dangers of smoking go beyond just the smoker. Children that grow up in households with smokers are more likely to pick up the habit.

For tobacco companies, children are seen as “replacement smokers” to replace the people who die from smoking-related diseases. They know their products kill an average of 1,200 Americans every single day and they have to perpetuate the cycle of addiction in order to support their business model. Youth smokers are more likely to develop severe levels of nicotine addiction compared to adults, which leads to continued tobacco use as they grow older. We know our kids face pressure to smoke and through our Tobacco Stops with Me Stop the Start messaging, we are countering tobacco industry tactics and misinformation. We have worked to educate Oklahomans about the negative impact of tobacco for nearly a decade and we will continue to work to prevent youth tobacco use every single day.

Holding tobacco companies responsible and by making them publish corrective statements to address the areas where they have mislead the public is significant and much-needed. What can you do as a parent do to protect your kids? Talk to them about the dangers of tobacco use.