US court orders tobacco firms to admit lying

Generic photo of a cigarette being smoked There has been a long debate about how adverts on smoking risks should be worded

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A US judge has ordered tobacco firms to pay for a public campaign laying out "past deception" over smoking risks.

The ruling sets out the wording of a series of "corrective statements" that the companies are being told to make over a period of up to two years.

Details of which media will carry the statements and how much they will cost are yet to be determined.

Tobacco companies can appeal against the decision. Several said they were studying the ruling.

District Judge Gladys Kessler used proposals from the US justice department as the basis for the statements.

Each is to be prefaced by wording that the tobacco firms had "deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking".

One statement reads: "Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day."

Another says: "Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive."

'Vitally important'

Judge Kessler first ordered the advertising campaign in 2006, saying tobacco firms hid the risks of smoking for decades.

A long debate on the wording of the statements has followed.

Tobacco companies have fought for the word "deceived" not to be used, and have complained that the statements would represent "forced public confessions".

The justice department is due to meet tobacco companies next month to discuss how to run the statements on cigarette packs, websites, on TV or in newspapers.

Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called Tuesday's ruling a "vitally important step" that "should resolve exactly what the tobacco companies are required to say".

"Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing," he said.

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