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DC Circuit affirm rulings against deceptive tobacco marketing

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia [official website] on Friday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court ruling [JURIST report] that tobacco manufacturers conducted a scheme to deceive American consumers as to the health effects of their products through a pattern of mail and wire fraud. The US brought the initial action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [18 USC § 1961–1968] which criminalizes the conduction or participation in the affairs of an enterprise that affects interstate or foreign commerce through a pattern of racketeering activity. The affirmed ruling will require tobacco manufacturers to issue public statements to correct messages it had put out which denied the health hazards of smoking, the addictiveness of smoking, the dangers of second-hand smoke and the manufacturers' manipulation of cigarette design to ensure optimum nicotine delivery. The companies will also be required to cease using any express or implied health terminology such as "light" or "low tar." While the appellate court affirmed many of the district court's remedial injunctions, they rejected a remedy that would require tobacco manufacturers to effectively force retailers to display large freestanding displays to convey the corrective messages, reasoning that the district court did not consider the rights of innocent persons as required [18 USC § 1964] by RICO. The court refused to order the manufacturers to forfeit profits gained as a result of past deception.

In April, the US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [HR 1256 text] which would give the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] the authority to regulate the market for tobacco products. In March, the Supreme Court dismissed a writ of certiorari [JURIST report] in Philip Morris USA v. Williams [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report]. In November, Saudi Arabia renewed a $34 billion suit against tobacco companies [JURIST report].

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