Cigarette smoking
A man passes a cigarette to another while smoking as they sit on a pavement along a road in New Delhi, India, August 18, 2015. Reuters/Adnan Abidi

American companies selling tobacco have been required to run advertisements admitting that cigarettes are addictive and that smoking kills people. Tobacco companies are also reportedly forced to pay for TV ads that would run between 30 and 45 seconds with a similar message.

The US Federal Court has ordered the “corrective statements” after a 19-year legal battle with the US Department of Justice. The television ads will air on huge television networks on primetime, five nights per week for a year. They will be attributed to companies such as Philip Morris USA, Reynolds and Lorillard.

The TV ads will air on ABC, CBS and NBC on weeknights. The printed ads, on the other hand, will be published in at least 50 major American papers on five Sundays between now and March.

'Corrective statements'

The corrective statements’ precise wording, font, format and locations were agreed upon last month following 10 years of litigation. It implies the messages about the adverse health effects of smoking. These include, “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.” Another ad admits that cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.

In 1999, a lawsuit sought to punish cigarette makers for deceiving the public about the dangers of their product was brought. As part of a 2006 ruling, companies were required to spread “corrective statements” centred on the addictive nature and health risks of smoking.

The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund released a joint statement, confirming that the ads will finally run. For American Cancer Society's Cliff Douglas, it is a “pretty significant moment.” Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, said it has been a long fight, NBC News reports.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew Myers said it is both an important victory and a frustrating one. The companies “have spent millions of dollars and a decade of time resisting a court order that simply requires them to publish truthful facts about their products and their behaviour,” he said, according to The New York Times. Myers has worked on the case since 1999.

Myers believes the advertisements would be less effective than intended as fewer people watch television and read newspapers today. He also noted that tobacco companies negotiated not to include the phrase “here’s the truth” in their advertisements.

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