2012-11-28 17:31:12 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 28, 2012): A federal judge yesterday ordered the major cigarette manufacturers to publish statements confessing to the public how they lied about a variety of issues in the past – including, for example, the addictive effects of nicotine – in a major law suit which was triggered by a lengthy legal memorandum submitted to the government by a law professor.
Moreover, in an interesting coincidence, the remedy chosen here by the judge – requiring so-called corrective statements – was first developed and obtained legal approval in a deceptive advertising proceeding before the FTC initiated by the same law professor.
The lengthy memorandum outlining the legal theories under which the federal government could sue the major tobacco companies, using a federal statute charging them with being racketeers [RICO], originated with pubic interest law professor John Banzhaf.
He asked an antismoking colleague, Clifford Douglas, to engage in the necessary legal research, and then provided it to Senator Richard Durbin who passed it along to the Justice Department. The law suit was ultimately successful, and the corrective statements are one of the
remedies ordered yesterday by Judge Gladys Kessler of U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.
However, the concept of ordering companies, which had engaged in deceptive practices, to confess to the public that they lied in the past goes back much further to 1970.
In a legal proceeding at the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] involving Campbell Soup, law students under Professor Banzhaf's direction persuaded the agency for the first time that it had the legal authority to order corrective advertising.
The agency reconfirmed that legal authority in a subsequent proceeding involving Firestone tires – incidentally, a proceeding which also first established the agency's authority to pay the expenses of intervenors like Banzhaf's law students – and was applied in many proceedings which followed. Some of these instances are cited by the judge in upholding this unusual remedy.
"It's very satisfying, at a time when so many people criticize law professors for teaching only theory and not practice, and for doing little more than writing increasingly useless and irrelevant law review articles, to be able to point to important public health accomplishments from their efforts in the real world, victories expected to save lives by helping to persuade youngsters not to take up smoking," suggests Banzhaf.
Prof. Banzhaf also brought legal actions which led to the first dramatic decline in cigarette consumption, the ban on cigarette commercials, started the modern nonsmokers' movement which is banning smoking in so many places, helped to kill off Joe Camel and cigarette billboards, supported other law suits against the tobacco companies which led to billion-dollar verdicts, etc.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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Washington, DC 20052, USA
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