Tobacco users are learning more about the dangers of smoking from the cigarette companies themselves.
The makers of big brands like Marlboro, Newport, and Camel have been forced to publish new ads admitting they knowingly designed cigarettes to keep people addicted to nicotine, altering their brains, and killing 1,200 Americans each day.
Its the first time tobacco companies have taken such responsibility, a confession the court system has been trying to get for nearly 20 years.
It started in 1999 when the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the major cigarette companies, including R.J. Reynolds, claiming they violated federal racketeering laws.
In 2006, a federal district court found the companies were liable for racketeering and ordered the cigarette companies to publish "corrective statements" detailing the dangers of smoking.
In 2006, a federal district court found the companies were liable for racketeering and ordered, among other things, the defendant cigarette companies to publish “corrective statements” in newspapers, on television, on company branded web sites, and on cigarette package onserts.
After 11 years of appeals, the court order officially went into effect last year and now we're finally starting to see the ads pop up.
On Oct. 5, 2017, the court ordered the defendants to publish the corrective statements in newspapers and on television beginning Nov. 26, 2017.
Each company much run their commercial during prime time programming Monday through Thursday on ABC, CBS, or NBC once a week for a year.
They also much each take out a full-page ad in the front section of Sunday edition of 46 major newspapers nationwide.
The court-ordered text tells audiences that tobacco companies altered cigarettes to maximize addiction and that "light" cigarettes aren't safer than regular ones and that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer.
The idea is to give consumers more education to make an informed decision for themselves.
But cigarette smokers in the Triad say the new ads won't make a difference in their decision making.
"It's not going to make no difference to me,” said Robert Hurst, a smoker for more than 20 years. “I don't think it'll really make a difference to anyone. It's a habit. Mines a habit. It's something in my hand. It's a stress relief. It's something that I do. It's something that a lot of people do. I don't think no matter what the federal government does, it's not going to stop"
"It's not the ads, it's not the court order, it's not anything else that will stop people from smoking,” said 30 year smoker Basem Eljauni. “This is your commitment. God gave you the decision and you can make your own decision."
WFMY News 2 reached out to RJ Reynolds for a comment on the federal court order.
The company issued the following statement:
“R.J. Reynolds is committed to working to address and resolve many of the controversial issues relating to the use of tobacco,” said Martin L. Holton, executive vice president of legal and external affairs and general counsel of Reynolds American Inc., R.J. Reynolds's indirect parent company. “R.J. Reynolds will fully meet its obligations under this order as part of its commitment of being a responsible company operating in a controversial industry.
The tobacco industry today is very different than it was when this lawsuit was filed in 1999. More than a decade ago, Reynolds American and its operating companies began a journey to transform the tobacco industry. Today, the industry is working with FDA, other regulators and some in the public health community more than ever before to create a regulated marketplace that encourages innovation while reducing the harm from smoking.
The corrective statements arise from a 1999 lawsuit the federal government brought against the major cigarette companies, including R.J. Reynolds, that focused on industry conduct dating back decades. A federal district court, among other rulings, ordered the companies to communicate corrective statements about cigarettes and smoking issues raised in the litigation. R.J. Reynolds maintains the obligation under the lawsuit for Lorillard because it acquired the company in 2015. British American Tobacco p.l.c. acquired Reynolds American Inc. earlier this year. Neither company is a party to the litigation or has any obligations under the order.
The TV spots began in November and will run for a full year until November, 2018.
The print ads will run through March of this year.
All the ads are paid for by the cigarette companies themselves.