Pursuant to an order by a federal court, cigarette makers on Sunday will have to begin running a series of messages, in print and on the air, warning that smoking is deadly and that nicotine is addictive, and that secondhand tobacco smoke kills almost 40,000 bystanders each year.
The order is based upon a major law suit brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act [RICO] which was triggered by a lengthy legal memorandum submitted to the federal government by a public interest law professor.
Moreover, in an interesting coincidence, the remedy – requiring so-called corrective statements or “corrective advertising” – 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 – and then did – 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 U.S. 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 by Judge Gladys Kessler of U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.
Moreover, 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 as a remedy for deceptive 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 for 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.
Banzhaf has been called “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials,” “Mr. Anti-Smoking,” “One of the Most Vocal and Effective Anti-Tobacco Attorneys,” “a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars,” and “The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry.”