Tobacco Firms Win Partial Appeal Over Court-Ordered Disclosure Ads

By Lawrence Hurley | May 22, 2015

A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday ruled that tobacco companies cannot be forced to announce publicly that they deliberately deceived the public over the health risks of cigarettes.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against the manufacturers on several other issues as it considered a long-running racketeering case brought by the U.S. government against various companies including Altria Group Inc, Lorillard Inc and Reynolds American Inc.

The companies lost the original lawsuit and an appeal, and a district court judge in Washington then ordered them to place advertisements, known legally as corrective statements, explaining the history of deception.

The defendants again appealed, saying they should not be forced to make such disclosures and challenging the specific content of the statements. In the ruling on Friday, the appeals court largely upheld the lower court judge, but ruled for the tobacco companies on one issue.

Judge David Tatel wrote on behalf of the court that the companies had no grounds to object to being required to disclose that they “intentionally designed cigarettes to ensure addiction.”

But the court held that the federal racketeering law does not allow courts to require the companies “to announce that they deliberately deceived the public.”

The court rejected the companies’ claim that they should not be required to publish the statements on company websites and cigarette packages as well as in newspaper and television ads.

The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The case is Philip Morris USA Inc v. United States, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 13-5028.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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