WASHINGTON – The Justice Department disclosed Wednesday it wants to require the tobacco industry to admit publicly that smoking causes a multitude of medical problems, killing 1,200 Americans every day.

The government proposed that a federal judge order the companies to say in advertisements that they lied to the public about the safety and dangers of smoking. “We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits,” one of the proposed statements begins.

Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro, the nation’s top-selling cigarette brand, and its parent company, Altria Group Inc., said the proposed statements go beyond factual and scientific information.

The company said it agrees with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases in smokers and is addictive.

But the Justice Department proposal would compel the companies to admit wrongdoing under threat of contempt of court.

“Such a proposal is unprecedented in our legal system and would violate basic constitutional and statutory standards,” said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel.


Philip Morris said the proposal would violate a court of appeals decision that held that any corrective statements must be purely factual and uncontroversial.

“The government’s proposal is neither,” Garnick said. “We will work with the Department of Justice and, if necessary, challenge the proposal at the appropriate time.”

The department released its hard-hitting proposed statements after winning U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s approval to place them in the public record. She has said she wants the industry to pay for “corrective statements” in various types of ads, both broadcast and print, but she has not made a final decision on what the statements will say, where they must be placed or for how long.


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