Judge Approves Revised Consent Order in Tobacco Litigation

Yesterday Judge Kessler of the federal district court for D.C. approved the parties’ joint Consent Order to implement the Corrective Statement remedies in the long-standing RICO case brought by the Justice Department against the Tobacco industry based on the companies’ decades of fraud and deception concerning the disastrous health effects of tobacco.  We represent the Intervenor public health organizations as Plaintiffs in the case, including the Tobacco Free Kids Action Fund, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.  The Revised Consent Order details the implementation criteria for the Corrective Statements that the tobacco companies must place on Television, in Newspapers, on their websites, and on the “onserts” accompanying their products.  Meanwhile, the industry has appealed to the D.C. Circuit the final preamble to the Corrective Statements, which requires each company to include the following language in each Corrective Statement: “A Federal Court has ordered Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philp Morris USA to make this statement about the health effects of smoking.  Here is the truth:” which is then followed by various required disclosures about the Adverse Health Effects of Smoking; the Addictiveness of Smoking and Nicotine; the Lack of Significant Health Benefits from Smoking “Low Tar,” “Light,” “Ultra Light,” “Mild,” and “Natural” Cigarettes; the Manipulation of Cigarette Design and Composition to Ensure Optimum Nicotine Delivery; and the Adverse Health Effects of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke.  The tobacco companies contend that various language in the approved preamble, principally “Here is the truth,” violates their First Amendment rights and, on that basis, are pursuing an appeal.  Assuming that appeal is favorably resolved, the Revised Consent Order will be put into effect in its entirety.