Anti-smoking groups want crackdown

Several public health organizations in February asked the U.S. Supreme Court to impose new requirements for anti-smoking efforts on tobacco companies that were found misrepresenting the health risks of cigarettes.

A federal trial court in 2006 ruled that the nation’s largest tobacco manufacturers violated federal racketeering laws when they conspired in various marketing tactics that misled the public, particularly youth, about the addictiveness of nicotine. The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Assn. were among six public health advocacy groups that joined the federal government in bringing the suit against Philip Morris USA Inc. and several other cigarette makers and retailers. The tobacco companies admitted no wrongdoing.

In May 2009, an appeals court upheld the decision, which prohibited the tobacco companies from engaging in fraudulent advertising and ordered them to make certain health information regarding their products publicly available. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected plaintiffs’ requests that tobacco companies also pay for comprehensive anti-smoking education campaigns and cessation programs to help smokers quit, saying federal law did not require that.

The public health organizations involved in the case have asked the Supreme Court to reverse that portion of the ruling to prevent ongoing harm to the public and “appropriately redress the tobacco companies’ far-reaching misconduct.” The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies made similar arguments in a friend-of-the-court brief it filed at the appellate level along with several other medical organizations.

Philip Morris and its parent company, Altria Group Inc., filed a separate petition asking the high court to throw out the lower court rulings that the tobacco industry concealed smoking dangers.

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