DENVER (KDVR) — New signage could be coming to your local gas station and convenience stores, and it would be posted near the cigarette counter.
While the U.S. has made great progress in reducing smoking, 11.5% of adults, or 28.3 million, still smoke cigarettes.
So why now?
This all stems back from a lawsuit filed by the Clinton administration back in 1999.
The initial result was a 2006 federal court ruling that said the major cigarette companies had violated federal anti-racketeering laws by what the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids calls “decades of deception and lies about the hazards of their products.”
Under this court order, tobacco companies were ordered to post signs highlighting the deadly consequences of smoking at 220,000 retail stores across the U.S.
However, FOX31 was told the tobacco companies put all their resources into appeals. Over the course of 16 years, they have fought this requirement with four different appeals and now they’ve exhausted all of their options.
Finally, a court order filed in 2022 now requires tobacco companies Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds and ITG brands to post about the deadly consequences of smoking. A federal court order formalized the agreement in December.
Starting July 1, the major U.S. tobacco companies must begin to post eye-catching signs telling the public the truth about the deadly consequences of cigarettes.
One example reads: “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, aids, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.”
But if tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, isn’t it too little too late? Could these signs really make a difference?
“The struggle continues. It is possible for people to quit, it is very difficult for people to quit but the first step is to fully understand the scope of the health hazards that you are exposing yourself to by deciding to smoke. Also, it’s important to understand that these companies have been lying to the American people for years,” said Denny Henigan with Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We’ve lost so many lives already, but the fact of the matter is there are lives to be saved. There are 1,100 kids who start smoking every day.”
They have from now until Oct. 1 to get the signs posted. The signs must remain up for 21 months, and they must be posted in English and in Spanish.
How will this be enforced? Will there be a punishment to either the retailer or the manufacturer if this order isn’t followed?
Officials said it’s the responsibility of those manufacturers who were the defendants in this case to ensure that their retailers put up the signs.
“It’s at the cost of the manufacturers and that’s, of course, entirely appropriate. And there are various enforcement mechanisms if you have retailers who are recalcitrant, who are kind of serial violators and who refuse to put up the signs. You know, their contracts with these manufacturers can be terminated and, you know, that’s a devastating blow to them,” said Henigan. “So, we think that there are sufficient enforcement mechanisms in this court order to ensure that the signs will go up, and I might add, part of it is there’s going to be a public tip line.”
So, that’s the second accountability piece. A customer who goes into their neighborhood convenience store, and sees that a sign hasn’t been posted or it’s down, there will be a tip line set up where people can report violations.