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Cigarette companies ordered to display 'corrective' signs at stores

Smokers will soon see new warning signs when they go to purchase a new pack after a new order from the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services. Photo by collegewebpro/Pixabay
Smokers will soon see new warning signs when they go to purchase a new pack after a new order from the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services. Photo by collegewebpro/Pixabay

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Smokers will soon see new warning signs when they go to purchase a new pack after a new order from the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services.

The order issued to Altria, Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and four brands owned by ITG Brands LLC requires them to display "corrective statements" about the health risks related to smoking in retail stores.

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It will take effect July 1, 2023. The companies then will have three months to post the statements in English and Spanish at the stores.

This latest action against cigarette companies is the final phase of the government's civil racketeering lawsuit against big tobacco.

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It stems from a 1999 trial court decision in which the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled cigarette companies were committing fraud by being deceptive about the health risks of smoking. All other actions stemming from that ruling have been implemented.

"Cigarette companies misled the public for decades about the health risks of smoking and were ordered by a federal court to implement a series of corrective measures," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division.

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"All of these measures have been implemented, except one-the display of corrective statements in retail stores that sell cigarettes. Today's order requiring implementation of that remaining remedy is a major achievement that will educate American consumers and save lives."

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About 200,000 of the 300,000 U.S. retail stores that sell cigarettes have agreements with the three cigarette companies that gives them control over how their products are marketed. Those agreements will be amended to require the display of the corrective statements.

Four examples of corrective statements were provided in the department's news release:

Smoking cigarettes causes numerous diseases and on average 1,200 American deaths every day;

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The nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive and that cigarettes have been designed to create and sustain addiction;

So-called light, low-tar and natural cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes; and

Secondhand smoke causes disease and death in people who do not smoke.

The signs will be eye-catching to attract the attention of potential buyers.

"This is an important moment in the history of cancer control in the United States," said William Klein, associate director of the National Cancer Institute's Behavioral Research program.

"Smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States, and therefore the court-ordered corrective statements appearing at the point of cigarette sale will help support our mission to reduce the burden of cancer," he said.

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