Bringing Tobacco Manufacturers to their Knees

December 24, 2012

1391828_cigarette.jpgExperienced wrongful death attorneys and consumer lawyers help ensure that victims are not further taken advantage of by tobacco manufacturers and hospitals.

Thanks to the efforts of these personal injury lawyers and other concerned persons, tobacco companies will now have to inform the public, through product warnings, that they have deceived consumers regarding the dangers of smoking and have purposely manipulated the cigarettes they sell to increase human addiction. The defendants are top tobacco brands such as RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., Reynolds American Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Co., and Philip Morris.

A US district judge ruled that these tobacco companies violated federal racketeering laws. The public was deliberately kept in the dark about the significant health hazards of its products. The judge ruled that the companies purposefully added more nicotine to increase the addiction rate in consumers, making it increasingly biologically difficult for smokers to quit.

Along with this unprecedented product labels, tobacco companies have been ordered to inform consumers and the general public about the number of people who lost their lives from first and second hand smoke. The companies will have to grudgingly declare that there are more people dying from consuming tobacco products each year than from drugs, alcohol, AIDS, automobile accidents, murder, and suicide combined.

The ruling comes following a long case that was tied up in courts for many years, which dealt with racketeering against tobacco manufacturers. These statements are to be made wherever tobacco ads appear, be it in store retail displays, in the press, or on the packaging of the products. This is an extraordinary victory for anti-tobacco lawyers on behalf of consumers and the general public.

The judge ordered corrective statements on five themes, including health hazards of smoking, the strong addictive tendencies, the misconception that cigarettes labeled as mild, natural, ultra light, light or low tar offer health benefits or are less dangerous, the manipulation of cigarette composition and design by manufacturers for more effective administration of nicotine, and the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.

It is estimated that more than 3,000 Americans die from inhaling secondhand smoke each year By breathing secondhand smoke adults can develop coronary heart disease or cancer. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have the risk of incurring ear problems, respiratory infections, impaired functioning of the lung, severe asthma and infant death syndrome. There is no level of secondhand smoke exposure that can be considered safe. The CDC recently released the findings from a study which revealed that air pollution caused by secondhand smoke in airport smoking areas was five times higher than in totally smoke-free airports.

Arguments from the tobacco companies state that parts of the corrective statements violated the First Amendment, their constitutional rights to free speech. They also argued that some of the statements were controversial and could generate emotional responses in smokers. Both the arguments were rejected by the judge, who presented a 55-page opinion stating that every aspect of the required corrective statement was based on research and proven statistical records compiled by the court.

As part of governmental efforts to issue more conspicuous warnings, the FDA had proposed more potent ad campaigns involving powerful and striking phrases and imagery on cigarette packs. This was the result of powers granted to the FDA by the US Congress in 2009. The FDA conceived the idea of including images of a patient smoking out of a neck hole and an autopsy table with a dead person on it along with phrases such as "smoking can kill you."

These FDA proposals were, however, turned down by an appeals court this year for the stated reason that they weren't powerful enough to motivate consumers to reduce their consumption (though later research proved that such graphic warnings are effective). Additional efforts are being made in court by various parties with vested interests to prevent the introduction of such powerful and graphic imagery.

However, anti-tobacco lawyers and personal injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins will strive to make warnings more and more conspicuous for the greater good of the public.