U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler rebuked tobacco manufacturers in her ruling Thursday, saying they had conspired for decades to deceive the public about smoking’s hazards and pitched their products to youngsters and lied about it.
Kessler said she could not require the industry to pay for a multibillion dollar quit-smoking campaign, citing an interim ruling, but she suggested federal lawmakers could do more to stop the industry from addicting new generations of smokers.
Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., predicted Kessler’s ruling would help boost the chances for bringing the loosely regulated tobacco industry under the control of the federal Food and Drug Administration.
“A court of law has finally said what Americans have known for years; Big Tobacco lied to get people addicted to cigarettes,” Lautenberg said.
A day after Kessler’s ruling in the seven-year-old case, industry leader Philip Morris USA confirmed plans to appeal, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. also indicated an appeal was likely. Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Justice Department officials said they were still mulling what to do.
Public health advocates said Friday it is the Justice Department that should appeal, and they encouraged lawmakers to impose new restrictions on the industry.
“It’s imperative that Congress and state legislatures change the laws where necessary to rein in this industry, since Judge Kessler made it clear she could not because of the higher court ruling that limited the remedies available,” said William Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Lautenberg said Congress should write into law some of the remedies Kessler imposed on the industry, particularly banning the use of “light” and “ultralight” labels, which can imply health benefits that aren’t real.