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Tobacco companies will soon begin running advertisements on television networks and newspapers across the country designed to counter what a judge called "false, deceptive and misleading public statements" that the companies made for for more than half a century about the health effects of smoking.

Mandated under a 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, D.C., the full-page newspaper ads will begin running on Sunday in more than 50 newspapers, with the television ads starting the next day on NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates.

The list of newspapers selected to run the ads does not include the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette but does include the weekly Little Rock Sun, which targets black readers.

No other Arkansas newspapers are on the list.

Still, health advocates in the state are hoping the advertisements will stir a discussion leading to tighter restrictions on tobacco use in the state.

Michael Keck, Arkansas government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said he plans to email copies of the print advertisements to each of the state's legislators and spread the word about the ads through social media outlets.

He hopes the statements will build support for measures such as filling gaps in the state's indoor smoking ban, raising cigarette taxes and raising the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21.

"I would say that there's interest, but one of the things that we haven't done is made a real strong, comprehensive argument about why we need to address these tobacco issues," Keck said. "From a public health perspective, to me, it's a slam dunk."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23.6 percent of Arkansas adults reported being smokers last year, giving the state the second-highest rate in the country.

Kentucky had the highest rate, 24.5 percent of adults.

"It's a huge issue for Arkansas," said Gary Wheeler, chief medical officer for the state Department of Health. "While we're making slow progress, it's been very, very frustrating to know that we can't do a better job."

The ruling mandating the "corrective statement" advertisements came in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1999 under then-President Bill Clinton's administration that accused the tobacco companies of conspiring to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.

Enforcement of the order was delayed by the companies' appeals and arguments over the statements' wording.

The Little Rock Sun, along with 15 newspapers in other states targeting black readers, was added to the list of newspapers slated for ad purchases in response to briefs filed in the case in 2014 by the Sun and organizations representing other black-oriented media outlets.

They noted that some tobacco industry marketing tactics had been aimed at blacks, who the media groups contended had been disproportionately harmed by smoking.

Other newspapers on the list range from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. The list also includes 10 Hispanic-oriented publications in Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Each advertisement lists facts about an aspect of smoking. For instance, the first scheduled print advertisement, focusing on health risks, says that smoking kills an average of more than 1,200 Americans each day and that "more people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined."

Other ads focus on the addictive nature of nicotine, efforts by companies to enhance the cigarette's addictiveness, the dangers of secondhand smoke and the potential misperception that "light" cigarettes are less harmful than regular ones.

Each ad includes a bulleted list of facts with the preamble: "A federal court has ordered Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard and Phillip Morris USA to make this statement."

According to the advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the television version of the advertisements includes the voice of an unseen woman reading the statement as black letters on a white background.

The print advertisements are to run on one Sunday a month through March. The television ads are set to run five times a week, between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., for a year.

Up to a third of the television ads each month can be run on a channel besides one of the three networks, as long as the program has an audience at least as large as one of the networks' during that time slot.

Metro on 11/25/2017

Print Headline: 'Corrective' tobacco ads near run

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  • RBBrittain
    November 25, 2017 at 12:31 p.m.

    They should have put them in the ADG and other major newspapers as well as the Sun. That little-known newsweekly (I never heard of it; though I'm white, I've seen other LR papers aimed at African Americans) should get its just reward as one of the successful plaintiffs; but it should NOT be used as an excuse to deny this truth to all other Arkansans of all races.

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