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Government wants tobacco companies to admit wrongdoings

Photo by Claudia Mack

Photo by Claudia Mack

As part of a 12-year-old lawsuit against the tobacco industry, the government on Wednesday released 14 "corrective statements" that it says the companies should be required to make.

One "corrective" statement says: "A federal court is requiring tobacco companies to tell the truth about cigarette smoking. Here's the truth: ... Smoking kills 1,200 Americans. Every day."

Another of the government's proposed statements begins: "We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits."

"For decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes," a third statement says. "Here's the truth. ... We control nicotine delivery to create and sustain smokers' addiction, because that's how we keep customers coming back."

Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro, the nation's top-selling cigarette brand, and its parent company, Altria Group Inc., said Wednesday they were prepared to fight if the Justice Department won't dial back its hard-hitting proposals.

Philip Morris said the Justice Department plan would compel an admission of wrongdoing under threat of contempt of court by a judge.

"Such a proposal is unprecedented in our legal system and would violate basic constitutional and statutory standards," the company statement said.

The Justice Department released its 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.

Kessler was to meet with all parties on Thursday.