Major Manufacturers Appeal "Truth" Statements

Retailers also protest possibility of forced POS warnings

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

WASHINGTON -- Last Friday, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Altria Group Inc., Philip Morris USA Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. filed a joint appeal over the corrective marketing statements ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler. With the controversial "truth" statements potentially going into effect as early as March 1st, the Associated Press reported both manufacturers and retailers have expressed concerns that such marketing requirements violate an appeals court decision on corrective statements and potentially the First Amendment rights of tobacco retailers.

The manufacturers have long opposed the content of the required statements, calling them "forced public confessions" in legal fillings. In a Nov. 27 2012, ruling, Kessler ordered that all Reynolds, Altria, Philip Morris and Lorillard marketing must feature specific "truth" statements along with the following overarching message: "A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking, and has ordered those companies to make this statement."

Although Reynolds, Altria and Lorillard could not be reached for comment, Reynolds attorney Noel Francisco has previously asserted that such statements violate an appeals court decision which requires corrective statements to be purely factual and uncontroversial. Kessler's "truth" statements include such potentially controversial sentiments as:

  • "More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol combined."
  • "When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that's why quitting is so hard."
  • "Secondhand smoke kills over 3,000 Americans each year."

Meanwhile, tobacco retailers have expressed concerns over whether they will also be required to include these statements in their point-of-sale (POS) marketing.  A footnote in the Nov/ 27 ruling said the issue "will be resolved in the near future."

In December, lobbyists representing both convenience stores and other tobacco retailers argued that a POS requirement would not only take up valuable store real estate, but could give the impression that the retailers were also guilty of the manufacturers' "deceitful" marketing efforts. Trade organizations (including NATO) have also expressed concern over the issue of retailers' First Amendment and property rights.

A hearing to resolve the POS issue has been set for Feb. 7.