Some new and different cigarette ads are starting to appear in prime time and in the Sunday paper.
Instead of using rugged images from the West or cool, greaser camels to encourage consumers to try their products, cigarette companies aim to talk America out of buying tobacco. It’s been a long time coming, in fact, since a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 1999 against the entire tobacco industry.
Tobacco Companies Found Guilty of Racketeering
Since the 1999 lawsuit, cigarette makers have been dragging their feet and arguing minutiae in the hopes of reducing the impact of the message they were court-ordered to send to the American public. This sort of message, they argued, amounted to “forced public apologies” meant to “shame and humiliate them,” according to reporting by The New York Times.
In a way, that’s exactly what was intended. Judge Gladys Kessler initially handed down the 1,600-page judgment for civil racketeering to the tobacco industry for lying to the public since the 1950s. The judgment stated that the tobacco industry’s main concern was “to make money with little, if any, regard for individual illness and suffering, soaring health costs or the integrity of the legal system.”
Corrective Statements: Too Little, Too Late?
Part of that ruling included an order to use the words “here’s the truth” in each and every so-called “corrective statement” in order to drive home the idea that the American public had been deceived about the dangers of both first- and second-hand smoking. Even as late as 2011, the proposed ads had a much stronger ring to them than the marketing messages that will appear in the final versions.
The tobacco industry’s lawyers fought for nearly a decade to soften the required wording in these corrective statements, so long that the media outlets in which they were required to distribute the messages have become far less relevant. Between the general shift in media influence and the less direct wording, it’s difficult to say if these legally-ordered statements will have the intended impact on health marketing, or if their stalling tactics have really created a situation where it’s too little, too late.