Big tobacco: Corrective statements go too far

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Tobacco companies are urging a federal judge to reject the government’s proposed industry-financed corrective statements.

The Justice Department countered that the statements need to be strong enough to protect people from future false statements made by cigarette makers. The statements include admissions that the companies lied about the dangers of smoking.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, who is hearing the case, has already said she wants the industry to pay for corrective statements in various types of ads. Although she has not made a decision on what the statements will say, she said at Monday’s hearing that she doesn’t have to take the government’s proposed statements word-for-word, and will come up with “modifications.”

The Justice Department’s proposed statements would cover areas such as the addictiveness of nicotine, the lack of health benefit from “low tar,” “ultra-light” and “mild” cigarettes, and the negative health effects of second-hand smoke.

Noel Francisco, an attorney representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., one of the firms challenging the statements, said that they violate an appeals court decision which held that any corrective statements must be purely factual and uncontroversial.

Justice Department lawyer Daniel K. Crane-Hirsch said that tobacco companies would “love” generic factual statements because it would not include the industry’s record of deception.

“The purpose here is not to humiliate,” he added, but to “inoculate” people against future false statements by the industry.

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