US Tobacco Companies Tell the Truth About Addictive Products

female fist crushes pile of loose cigarettes

Major US tobacco companies will publish and broadcast messages beginning November 24 that clearly state they designed their products to be more addictive, even while knowing their health effects were deadly. The court-ordered messages will appear in big city newspapers, on national network television stations, websites, cigarette package inserts, and places where cigarettes are sold. These “corrective statement” advertisements are a result from a federal case that found cigarette makers guilty in 2006 of violating racketeering laws.

Full-page newspaper ads will appear in papers in more than 50 major cities through April 2018. The television ads will begin on November 27 and run on major network or cable stations during primetime for 52 weeks.

The decision holding the tobacco defendants liable was based on evidence that the tobacco industry knew smoking and nicotine were addictive, manipulated tobacco products to make them more addictive, and claimed “light” and “low” tar products were healthier than regular products even though they knew that was false. Judge Gladys Kessler, who presided over United States v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. et al., found that, “…over the course of more than 50 years, defendants lied, misrepresented, and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as ‘replacement smokers,’ about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke.”

After a decade of appeals, tobacco companies Altria, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA must now publish the corrective statements in order to fully inform the public and help prevent future harm from the health problems caused by smoking and secondhand smoke, and the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine.

Public health groups including the American Cancer Society (ACS), American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund played a key role as intervenors in the case and made recommendations about the corrective statements the tobacco companies must finally make following more than a decade of appeals. Cliff Douglas, ACS Vice President for Tobacco Control and Director of the ACS Center for Tobacco Control, calls the publication of the corrective statements by the major tobacco companies a significant victory for public health.

Douglas said, “In its ruling, the federal court relied on the expertise of the American Cancer Society and other public health groups in the fight to combat the tobacco epidemic in this country and to hold accountable the tobacco industry for decades of fraud and conspiracy and misleading the public and health authorities about the deadly health effects of their products. What this case has succeeded in doing is to finally force the tobacco industry to ’fess up to what it has known and done for the past 50 years. The industry has deliberately addicted millions of people with a product it knew would kill as many as half of them years before their time.”

The messages will begin appearing in national media on November 24.

Examples of specific messages:

  • Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.
  • Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukemia, and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder, pancreas, and cervix.
  • Smoking is highly addictive. Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco.
  • Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.
  • Cigarette companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways, including designing filters and selecting cigarette paper to maximize the ingestion of nicotine, adding ammonia to make the cigarette taste less harsh, and controlling the physical and chemical make-up of the tobacco blend.
  • When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that’s why quitting is so hard.
  • Many smokers switch to low tar and light cigarettes rather than quitting because they think low tar and light cigarettes are less harmful. They are not.
  • “Low tar” and “light” cigarette smokers inhale essentially the same amount of tar and nicotine as they would from regular cigarettes.
  • All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death – lights, low tar, ultra lights, and naturals. There is no safe cigarette.
  • Secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans each year.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

A better-informed public

Douglas said, “The American Cancer Society is pleased the American people and millions more around the world will finally learn the complete truth from the tobacco industry regarding the deadly health effects and addictiveness of their products, and the fact that this industry was responsible for fraudulently misleading the public for so long.”

Despite significant progress in reducing smoking, at least 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans and costing the nation about $170 billion in health care expenses each year.

Douglas says he hopes the corrective statements will better inform the public, persuade many more people to try to quit smoking, reduce the number of kids who start using tobacco in the first place, and support accelerated anti-tobacco policy changes.

The American Cancer Society’s affiliate advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) has long worked to get policies passed at all levels of government that have been proven to reduce smoking rates and overall tobacco consumption. They include:

  • comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws
  • increased state and federal tobacco excise taxes
  • funding for tobacco prevention and quitting programs
  • increasing the legal sale age for tobacco to 21
  • preserving the FDA’s authority to regulate all tobacco products

We can help

ACS is committed to helping people quit smoking and leading the fight for a world against cancer. We can help people quit smoking and provide quit-smoking programs, resources and support that can increase your chances of quitting successfully.

Read about the available tools, or call us at 1-800-227-2345.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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