Cigarette Producers' Websites Sport New Court-Ordered Statement

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. consumers who missed the memo that smoking is harmful can now read about it on the homepages of major tobacco companies.

Cigarette producers, including Altria Group Inc. and Reynolds American Inc.’s U.S. unit, have updated their websites to include court-ordered statements about the danger of smoking. Monday was the deadline to include the warnings.

Hyperlinks on the companies’ website landing pages now warn visitors that tobacco companies “intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive” and cigarettes advertised as “light” and “low tar” may have the same amount of tar and nicotine as regular ones. The “corrective statements” were the result of a consent order from a U.S. District Court.

While the disclosure is unlikely to change consumer behavior, that may not be the point, said Kenneth Shea, senior analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

“This is a legacy part of the Department of Justice settlement meant to shame the companies for allowing them to deceive the public for so long,” Shea said.

The court order is a part of a 2006 permanent injunction ordered by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, who found the tobacco companies violated anti-racketeering laws by deceiving the consumers about the danger of smoking. The warnings must also be printed periodically on cigarette packages and included with social media campaigns that promote smoking.

A spokesman for Altria declined to comment beyond referring Bloomberg News to an October statement. Representatives from Reynolds American and its parent British American Tobacco Plc did not reply to a request for comment.

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