Judge Drops Gavel on Tobacco Companies

Discussion
Aug 18, 2006
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By George
Anderson


The good news for tobacco companies is that U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler
didn’t believe she had the authority to order them to pay major punitive damages
for deceiving the public about the dangers associated with smoking.


The bad news is the judge did find the companies guilty of racketeering and
has banned the use of terms such as light, low tar, ultra light or mild on packages
since cigarettes with these designations have not been found to be any safer
than those without the labels.


In her ruling, Judge Kessler said: “Over the course of more than 50 years,
defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including
smokers and the young people they avidly sought as ‘replacement smokers,’ about
the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke (second-hand
smoke).”


Discussion Questions: How will Judge Kessler’s ruling
that cigarettes can no longer be labeled light, low tar, ultra light or mild
impact tobacco company marketing of its products? What, if anything, will this
mean for retailers that sell cigarettes and other forms of tobacco?

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12 Comments on "Judge Drops Gavel on Tobacco Companies"


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Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 6 months ago

So many skeptics! Look at the stats: the incidence of smoking in the U.S. *has* dropped. I agree with you all that once someone starts smoking, the warnings are not effective. But that’s the point: advertising cigarettes as “low tar” or “light” is designed to overcome the initial hesitation to start smoking. Many young people start smoking socially, when they are at bars or clubs. A young adult who wants to join in the social habit may be seduced by the idea that a “light” cigarette that she smokes only occasionally will not be addictive. She would be wrong, and she will be a regular smoker within a year or two.

Eliminate the “light” designation or any suggestion that you can start smoking and not get hooked, and the number of people who *start* smoking will continue to decline. That’s the real goal.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Since David hasn’t (yet) risen to the challenge, I’ll give the contrarian response: the judge’s ruling conflicts with many – practically every – precedent, and will eventually be overturned. The warning labels that have been on packs for MORE THAN 30 YEARS absolve tobacco companies of (practically all) liability. However many people may applaud or be nodding their heads in agreement — the law is the law.

In regard to the survey question (more, less, or the same), there will be somewhat less in US, Canada, UK and Europe, and somewhat more elsewhere.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 6 months ago

The good judge has seen through the smoke (sorry). The tobacco companies have changed their methods of operating, but only where the law and/or governments have made it prudent to do so. I believe that the good Judge recognized that the tobacco companies have made no effort to protect their customers in those nations who have not found it prudent to regulate the claims they sometimes make. One would think that companies who have “seen the light” would choose to shine it on all of their customers and not just on those who might sue them for false and misleading statements and claims that promoted the adoption of habits that damage health and, in many cases, lead to an untimely death.

Paul Waldron
Guest
Paul Waldron
14 years 6 months ago

I would hope this would have an adverse effect on cigarette sales. Realistically it will have none. What the judge ruled on is a fact that has been known for years. If you remember a couple of months ago, the tobacco companies won a ruling that said they were not liable for misleading consumers by putting the word “light” on packaging or using this in ads. The ruling was that since the government told them to put this on the package, they were blameless.

What we are really seeing at work is the power of a lobby vs. what’s right for people.

Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
14 years 6 months ago

Tobacco companies, just as they have in the past, will re-position their brands in ways other than just labeling them as “light” or “ultra light.” Just as it is in any ever changing, competitive business, tobacco companies will find ways to differentiate their products, and position them as appealing to their targeted base. Over the past 40 years, the warnings that smoking is dangerous to your health havn’t discouraged millions of Americans from smoking, therefore, I don’t believe there will be a significant impact on those that already smoke, or those that start smoking either because of peer pressure, or smoke just to be “cool,” nor on the retailers that sell tobacco products.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 6 months ago

Judge Kessler has blown some new smart smoke rings into the air designed to save the smoke-inhaling world. Good for her but most people already accept that smoking has a killing effect.

In addition, the effects of excessive alcohol consumption also can produce premature deaths. Still nearly 25% of Americans still smoke and a lot of people still drink too much and binge drinking flourishes in younger circles, particularly at many colleges. While I truly applaud Judge Kessler intent, the trouble with smoke rings is that they fade in the air.

jared colautti
Guest
jared colautti
14 years 6 months ago
Canada’s tobacco laws are much more extreme than those in the US: First tobacco companies were banned from running any mass advertising (TV, print, billboards); then they were banned from sponsoring any public events; then it was mandated that half of all packaging must display one of a few death warnings complete with images of rotting gums or cancer-ridden lungs. Ridiculously high taxes were also introduced, bringing the cost of a pack up to $8 for a while. Now, it’s illegal to smoke in any building, in a bus shelter or, in some cases, within a few metres of a building. As a non smoker, I applaud the move, however I don’t think it’s making any difference. Smoking is addictive. Changing the language on packs won’t make a difference to someones habit. (To be fair, price manipulation seemed to be the most effective method of persuading people to quit, judging by conversations I’ve had with smokers. Unfortunately, this also led to a rise in black market trade as entrepreneurs imported cigarettes from the US or… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Smoking in the US is declining, but the manufacturers are still extremely profitable. Cigarette companies lead all industries in finding creative ways to market their products. They have excellent margins with plenty of room for ad spending, since they’re selling dried leaves wrapped in paper. And cigarette companies know the lifetime value of a customer better than anyone else, since nicotine is addictive. When a person smokes a pack a day, the wholesale price of a year’s consumption is over $1,000 for some dried leaves and paper. Isn’t it worth spending big bucks to convert someone to your brand?

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
It does seem to be true that people who want to smoke will, regardless of all the warnings in the world and all the inconvenience and disdain they encounter. I’m pleased at what this judge has done but agree with Shaun and Ryan that it probably won’t have much of an effect on decision making even if it does force the manufacturers to come up with a new spin to sell their products. Possibly (and I don’t know if this is actually possible) social exclusion might do it. Now if Shaun had told his friends that he objected and either asked them to stop or left himself, they might have made a different decision at least for the time that they were spending together. One of the reasons why the ban was approved in the UK was because of the effect on people who didn’t want to work in a smoking environment. And before David joins in and says, well, they can always go and work somewhere else, that really is dodging the issue. No… Read more »
Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

There is something ludicrous about putting death threats on a product and then selling it anyway. But I digress.

If you believe that everything is a form of energy and that some things send out weakening, negative, repelling energy and some things send out strengthening, positive and attractive energy then retail stores will do better by not selling tobacco at all; they are the ‘poster child’ for negative energy. The wording on the label makes little difference.

The incredible work being done in the science of kinesiology shows that just looking at a pack of cigarettes weakens your muscularity. And so can the look of a clerk, the decor in your shop and the graphics used in your ad. I don’t know of any retailer who has ‘strength tested’ their store(s), their displays, ads etc. but this would be an interesting experiment.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Shaun is right. At this point, those who choose to smoke aren’t being deceived by the kind of language the judge has ruled the tobacco companies can’t use. In fact, the harsher the language, the more it may appeal to at least younger smokers who are picking up the habit to make a point about their view of the world.

Shaun Bossons
Guest
Shaun Bossons
14 years 6 months ago

I wonder if the US will resort to the extremes that are now being put into place in the UK? …Large white labels across the packets (over the marketing message and brand logo) saying things like “SMOKING KILLS”, “SMOKING CAUSES CANCER” and many other messages to breed fear into the consumer.

I recently sat around a table in my home town whilst four visiting friends smoked. The messages staring up at me from the table that day put enough fear into me, never to want to smoke…didn’t seem to stop them though.

It seems that no matter the severity of the message, no matter the reduction in marketing to sell the product, consumers will continue to consume and retail sales won’t be affected dramatically.

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