Long-Running Tobacco Lawsuit Nears End | NACS – Media – NACS Daily
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Long-Running Tobacco Lawsuit Nears End

Altria and Philip Morris USA, among other firms, announced an agreement on the timing of court-ordered communications related to cigarettes and smoking on TV and in print.
October 4, 2017

​RICHMOND, Va. – On Monday, Altria Group, Inc., and Philip Morris USA, Inc., announced that they and other companies have agreed on the timing of court-ordered communications about cigarettes and smoking on television and in newspapers. The communications, which will begin on November 26, stem from a 1999 lawsuit the federal government brought against the major domestic cigarette companies that focused on industry conduct dating back to the 1950s.

The court’s order requires the companies to publish five statements related to cigarette smoking across several communication channels, including newspaper and television ads, on the companies’ websites and on cigarette packs for a year or more. “This industry has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, including becoming regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which we supported,” said Murray Garnick, Altria’s executive vice president and general counsel, in a press release. “We’re focused on the future and, with FDA in place, working to develop less risky tobacco products.”

Today, tobacco is one of the most regulated industries in the country. The way in which cigarettes are manufactured, marketed and sold has changed markedly since the lawsuit was filed. The 1998 tobacco settlement agreements with the state attorneys general led to significant industry changes. For example, the settlement agreements banned cigarette billboards, stadium advertisements and brand-name merchandise.

Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations, pointed out how the association worked to ensure the rights of retailers would be protected. “Originally, the U.S. Department of Justice and the judge in the case wanted similar corrective signage posted at the retail level, which would have implied that retailers had done something wrong,” he told NACS Daily. “NACS submitted a brief and successfully challenged that part of the court’s opinion on appeal. That’s why this agreement does not require retailers to give up counter space to display the manufacturers’ corrective messages.”