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Tobacco Companies' Appeal to Delay Court-Ordered Ad Blitz

<p>It's taken longer to implement a judge's ruling than it did to hold a trial and issue a judgment in the case.</p>
/ Source: Reuters

Consumers will likely have to wait until 2015 or later to see a court-ordered advertising blitz detailing tobacco companies' deception, a lag of nine years after the original ruling, a court heard on Wednesday.

Tobacco lawyers said at the hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that they planned to push forward with an appeal about the wording of the ads, even after they struck an agreement this month with the Justice Department and anti-smoking advocates about what the ad campaign would look like in newspapers and on television.

The companies have fought the lawsuit since President Bill Clinton's Justice Department filed it in 1999, alleging the cigarette makers engaged in racketeering by hiding from the public the health consequences of tobacco use.

They lost the lawsuit and an appeal, and they were ordered to place the ads, known legally as corrective statements. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said Wednesday the latest appeal would likely delay the ads until 2015 or later.

"I'm of course concerned about the delays," Kessler told lawyers at the hearing. "The bottom line is the public is not getting what I would consider to be the benefit of the corrective statements."

Defendants Altria Group Inc., Lorillard Inc. and Reynolds American Inc. argue that the proposed wording of the ads would violate their free speech rights.

Kessler ruled for the government in August 2006. It has since taken more time to implement her ruling than it did to hold a trial and issue a judgment.