Ending tobacco companies’ smoke screen

New TV ads air, telling the truth about industry’s lethal products

From Oregon Health Authority, submitted by Ilea Bouse, Prevention and Education Specialist, Hood River County Prevention Department:

The tobacco industry has been deceiving the American people for decades by lying about the health effects of smoking and marketing to children. Now they have been ordered to publicly admit they lied in the form of newspaper ads published through March and television ads running through 2018. A new round of ads starting this week details how the industry intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.


Hood River County programs are educating different groups about flavored tobacco products, and e-cigarettes/vapor devices.

For more information, contact Ilea Bouse, tobacco prevention and program coordinator at the Hood River County Prevention Department, at 541-387-2030. Oregon is a longtime leader in tobacco prevention. The Tobacco Quit Line, launched in 1998, made Oregon the first state to offer over-the-phone support to tobacco users who want to quit. In 2007, the state passed the Indoor Clean Air Act, a workplace law protecting people from secondhand smoke. This law was expanded in 2016 to include e-cigarettes, vape pens and more. Most recently, Oregon became the fifth state to pass Tobacco 21, increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. For more information about tobacco prevention and the work being done in Hood River County, visit smokefreeoregon.c....

The court order dates back to 2006, when U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler found tobacco companies violated civil racketeering laws and defrauded people in America for decades. The major U.S. tobacco companies resisted admitting their deceptive practices publicly for more than 11 years.

While the tobacco companies were fighting in the courts, nearly 80,000 Oregonians died from causes linked to tobacco.

In her 1,683-page decision, Judge Kessler detailed how the tobacco companies “have marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.” She concluded, “The evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity.”

The industry hasn’t changed their tactics since the initial ruling. In recent years, the industry has promoted products such as e-cigarettes and asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve new devices as “reduced risk.” However, in recent weeks an extensive new study (www.nap.edu/re-source/24952/012318ecigar-etteConclusionsbyEvidence.pdf) found youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes than youth who don’t. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seems reluctant to approve new heated tobacco product lines as reduced risk.

The tobacco companies Lorillard Inc., Altria (owner of Philip Morris USA) and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. were ordered to publish TV and newspaper ads on five topics for a year. The examples of the topics and ads tobacco companies are required to run are listed below verbatim:

• The adverse health effects of smoking:

“More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.”

• The addictiveness of smoking and nicotine:

“Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.”

• The lack of significant health benefit from smoking “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild” and “natural” cigarettes:

“All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death — lights, low tar, ultra lights, and naturals. There is no safe cigarette.”

• The manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery: “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.”

• The adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke

“Secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans each year.”

The TV ads can be viewed at www.tobacco-freekids .org/media/2017/corrective-statements.

“Defendants have known many of these facts for at least 50 years or more,” said Judge Kessler. “Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, to the Government, and to the public health community.”

In a 1994 Congressional hearing, recorded by C-SPAN, then U.S. Rep. Ron Wyden is seen asking a row of tobacco industry executives, one after the other, if the nicotine in cigarettes is addictive. They all say no. We now know they were lying. Their products are the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon, the U.S., and the world. In Oregon, tobacco is the cause of nearly 8,000 deaths every year, 29 in Hood River County.

“Oregon is recognized nationally for its tobacco prevention work, yet tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease,” said Lillian Shirley, Public Health Director at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. “This ruling exposes the illegal and destructive practices of the tobacco industry, and motivates us to continue strong prevention efforts — especially when it comes to children.”

Research has shown that 90 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 18. While the U.S. hasn’t seen television advertisements for tobacco since 1971, the tobacco industry markets to children in other ways, especially in the retail environment. Tobacco is cheap and available in flavors to attract kids. In Hood River County, 16.4 percent used flavored tobacco products in the past 30 days according to the 2015 Oregon Healthy Teen Survey.

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