Big Tobacco finally forced to broadcast “corrective statements,” but are they doing their intended job?
After nearly 70 years of avoiding the research, big tobacco is finally being forced to explicitly own up to their role in the deaths of millions and millions of their customers. The lawsuit that set off this punishment was actually first filed all the way back in 1999. In it, the United States government claimed that the major tobacco companies and lobbies had lied to the public about the real dangers of their products. The litigation took nearly seven years before a ruling was decided by Judge Gladys Kessler, who had been presiding over the case for the duration. It would be another five years before the government’s proposals for potential corrective statements were even discussed between the US government and big tobacco.
Fast forward to 2017, another six years later, and we are finally getting our first taste of these corrective statements. The statements themselves will be split between TV commercials and newspaper ads. It’s a little more than suspicious that once they finally agree to comply with their punishment, the mediums they’re using include one which most people can fast forward through commercials and the other which is an absolute shell of what it once was. In any case, these corrective statements started circulating a few weeks ago, but many are now questioning whether or not the tobacco companies are doing enough to fulfill their punishment.
One of the ads that will be airing on TV across the country states that “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans every day. More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.” While this may seem reasonably sufficient in terms of clearly stating the risk of smoking, the federal government initially wanted statements that went much further.
During the period where the government and big tobacco were in discussions over the nature of the statements, the feds gave several suggestion statements that went much further than what we’ve ended up with. One aimed at the tobacco industry’s false claims about low tar and light cigarettes being a safer alternative, while another had them admitting they lied under oath and misled the public about how addictive cigarettes truly are. So it’s clear that big tobacco got off easy by merely having to admit the harmful nature of smoking and not their explicit role in perpetuating misinformation.
What we are left with is not only a corrective statement that does very little to connect big tobacco with the risks they purposefully subjected their customers too, but on top of that, the ads themselves are utterly bland and benign. It’s very transparent that they are designed to be as unnoticeable as possible. Take a look for yourself here. It’s evident that the tobacco industry is doing everything they can to fulfill the wording of their punishment, but not the spirit of it. They are doing everything they can to make this message to the public go mostly unnoticed in both the media and public perception. We know from the decades of engaging and memorable commercials from big tobacco that they can, in fact, make ads that make their message stick, making it abundantly clear that they are now only going through the motions.
If big tobacco were forced to run ads like the ones proposed initially by the government, then maybe they would have the intended impact. In their current form, it’s hard to see how these corrective statements are saying anything that anyone doesn’t already know, let alone saying it in a way that will engage with the few people who don’t.
By avoiding admitting blame, big tobacco has only proven that they are insincere in any apologies they make. That’s why it’s so important that we don’t let this be the end. We must continue to put pressure on the tobacco industry to admit and atone for the harm they have caused. Stories like this only prove once again why vaping is far superior to smoking. Instead of lying for over 50 years and then trying to avoid punishment when they’re unable to lie anymore, the vaping industry was directly created for reducing the harm caused by tobacco.
Are you surprised big tobacco is airing and publishing these ads? Do you think what they were forced to say in the end is equal to the level of harm they caused? What do you think would be an adequate punishment for the tobacco industry’s deception? Let us know what you think in the comments.