Altria’s Marlboro cigarettes for sale in a store.
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Major cigarette companies will soon be required to post signs at retail locations warning of the health effects of smoking, the Justice Department announced.
The order, set to take effect on July 1, 2023, is the latest in a broader series of court-ordered measures stemming from a 1999 lawsuit against cigarette companies, the ministry said in a press release.
The order requires defendants Other, Philip Morris USA Inc., RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and four brands of cigarettes owned by ITG Brands to put up the signs for two years. Company officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Attorneys at the Department of Justice have worked diligently for over 20 years to hold accountable the tobacco companies that have defrauded consumers about the health risks of smoking,” Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement.
The retail signs will be “distinctively designed” and include warnings such as “Cigarette smoking causes numerous diseases and an average of 1,200 deaths per day in the United States” and “The nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive and cigarettes were designed to induce and sustain addiction.”
The order follows a lawsuit filed in 1999 in US District Court for the District of Columbia by a coalition of anti-tobacco and public health advocacy groups. It led to a ruling that the cigarette companies were cheating consumers about the health hazards associated with smoking cigarettes.
As part of previous court orders, similar health warnings began appearing in newspaper and television advertisements, on cigarette packs and on company websites from 2017. The retail signs were the subject of multiple appeals before a deal was reached last May, the Justice Department said.
The order applies to about 200,000 U.S. retail locations that have merchandising agreements with the cigarette companies, according to the department. Companies must amend their dealer contracts and then manufacture and distribute the required signs within six months of the start of the order.
The deal comes as e-cigarette maker Juul Lab settled a lawsuit this week alleging it engaged in deceptive marketing and sales practices. The company, which is partially owned by Altria, said it has reached settlements covering more than 5,000 cases involving nearly 10,000 plaintiffs.
As part of the resolutions, Juul will compensate those struggling with nicotine addiction and fund programs aimed at curbing youth nicotine use.