- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2022

America’s big tobacco companies will now be required to produce and display signage in stores explaining the risks of smoking, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The order was the last of a set of corrective remedies mandated by a 1999 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit filed by the government. 

The 2005 verdict in that trial determined that “cigarette companies had defrauded consumers about the health dangers associated with cigarette smoking,” according to the DOJ announcement.

Now Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Altria and the four cigarette firms owned by ITG Brands must display signage at stores warning consumers about the dangers of smoking.

“Justice Department attorneys have worked diligently for over 20 years to hold accountable the tobacco companies that defrauded consumers about the health risks of smoking. Today’s resolution implements the last remedy of this litigation,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

The order primarily affects some 200,000 stores that have agreements with the four companies mentioned above. 

Now those agreements are required to be amended to display the smoking risk signs.

The signs must be in color to attract attention. Warnings required on the displays include:

— Smoking cigarettes causes numerous diseases and 1,200 American deaths on average every day.

— Cigarettes have been designed to create and sustain nicotine addiction.

— So-called light, low-tar and natural cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes.

— Secondhand smoke causes disease and death in people who do not smoke.

The signs will not be permanent. The order will take effect July 1, with a three-month grace period for the defendants to have the signs displayed. The signs, required to be in English and Spanish, will be up for 21 months after that.

The two-year duration of the warning signage was the result of negotiations between retailers, the defendants and the government, which settled on the 24-month range in May 2022.

America’s health leaders applaud the latest strike against smoking.

“Smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States, and therefore the court-ordered corrective statements appearing at the point of cigarette sale will help support our mission to reduce the burden of cancer,” said National Cancer Institute Behavioral Research Program Associate Director William Klein.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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