Starting this week, major tobacco companies must begin running court-ordered ads on television and in newspapers that tell the American public the truth about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, as well as the companies’ intentional design of cigarettes to make them addictive.

This mandate has been a long time coming. They are the result of a long-running lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed against the tobacco companies in 1999. In 2006, a federal court ordered the tobacco companies to make “corrective statements” after finding that they had violated civil racketeering laws and engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the American public about the health effects of smoking and how they marketed to children.

The ads will finally run after 11 years of appeals by the tobacco companies aimed at delaying and weakening them. Two of the 18 court-ordered statements reads:

  • All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks and premature death — lights, low tar, ultra lights and naturals. There is no safe cigarette.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The corrective statements are an important step forward, but we need to continue our local efforts in tobacco prevention. Tobacco use kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs our nation about $170 billion in health-care expenses each year. To learn more about the La Crosse Area Health Initiative, contact: jzabel@lacrossecounty.org. Tobacco users can get free help by calling 1-800-quit-now.

Judi Zabel, La Crosse

Judi Zabel works with La Crosse Area Health Initiative for the La Crosse County Health Department.

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