US tobacco companies ordered to pay for ads detailing dangers of smoking

World Today

Advertisements about cigarettes are now airing in the United States. They’re filled with facts about the dangers of smoking – like the 1200 Americans who die every day from tobacco. Even more surprisingly, they’re being paid for by the biggest tobacco companies in the country.

CGTN’s Jim Spellman explained why tobacco companies are paying for ads that detail how harmful their product is.

American cigarette companies used to romanticize their product in commercials on television. But now, some U.S. cigarette companies have to run ads illustrating how harmful smoking really is.

The new ads are the result of a long-running lawsuit brought by the U.S. government back in 1999. The suit claimed tobacco companies misled the public about the dangers of smoking.

“It has been a campaign designed to preserve their enormous profits no matter the cost,” Janet Reno, a former U.S. attorney general said.

After years of appeals, the federal court ordered the top five largest cigarette companies to pay and run these ads on TV for a year. Similar ads are running in U.S. newspapers. The cigarette companies avoided harsher measures like placing graphic images on cigarette packaging, as is required in Australia.

The ads are in stark contrast to past decades when cigarette commercials aired everywhere – even on children’s shows. Those ads portrayed cigarettes as safe.

“It is a really big watershed in terms of the industry coming clean for the first time ever about the health effects of smoking,” said Mary Rouvelas, a member of the American Cancer Society Action Network. “We really hope that this will help people and save lives.”

According to the U.S. government, about 15 percent of Americans smoked in 2015. That’s down from about 21 percent a decade earlier. Public health advocates hope these new ads will lead even more people to quit.