Four US tobacco companies have been ordered by court to publish revised statements to set the record straight on the dangers of their products.
The directive could have dealt a major blow to the industry, with a major French bank announcing that it would divest its interests in the tobacco sector.
The companies will now be required to publish the corrective statements on: the health effects of tobacco use, second-hand smoke, the false sale and advertising of low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes, that smoking and nicotine are highly addictive, and that they have designed cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine.
The statements, appearing in advertisements paid for by the tobacco industry, were ordered to appear in more than 50 US newspapers, as well as on American television stations.
This is a major victory for tobacco control around the globe.
The admissions by the US tobacco firms that their products kill and are designed for addiction should strengthen national tobacco control efforts.
Early this year, Kenyan courts adopted similar measures after a case challenging new laws governing the manufacture, sale and advertising of tobacco products was dismissed, allowing the rules to take effect immediately.
A Court of Appeal declined to grant the orders sought by cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd (BAT).
BAT was appealing a high court decision upholding the adoption of health warnings contained in the 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations.
Under the tobacco control laws, Kenya chapter, the law prohibits virtually all forms of advertising and promotion of tobacco products.
There are some restrictions on tobacco sponsorship and the publicity of such sponsorship. The publication of the corrective statements, which started November 26, follows a lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department in 1999 under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law.
The federal court first ordered tobacco companies to implement these corrective statement adverts in 2006, but years of tobacco industry appeals blocked their publication.
Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases department, says the tobacco control community has been saying for decades that tobacco kills, is addictive and that its manufacturers have known this, while profiting from the suffering of millions.
French bank BNP Paribas announced that it would stop financing and investing in activities related to tobacco firms, including producers, wholesalers and traders.