WASHINGTON – Decades after they were banned on the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to television this weekend, but not by choice.
By court order, the tobacco industry will for the first time be forced to publicize the deadly and addictive effects of smoking, more than 11 years after a judge ruled that companies had cheated the public about the dangers of cigarettes.
But years of legal backlash on the part of the industry on every detail means that the ads will be less difficult -ir than what was proposed. Experts in tobacco control say that the campaign – built around television and newspapers – will not reach people when they are young and probably start smoking.
"Your legal strategy always obstructs, delays, creates confusion and buys more time." said Ruth Malone, of the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied the industry for 20 years. "Then, when this was finally resolved, the newspapers have a much smaller number of readers, and nowadays, who watches television on the network?"
The new ads, which begin on Sunday, set the price of tobacco in blunt declarations and text without text: "Every year more people die from smoking than from murders, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car accidents and alcohol".
Companies will also recognize their role in the manufacture of addictive cigarettes: "Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and maintain addiction."
Smoking remains the leading cause of death and preventable disease in the nation, causing more than 480,000 deaths each year, even though smoking rates have been declining for decades. Last year, the rate of adult smokers reached a new minimum of 15 percent, according to government figures. That's less than 42 percent of adults who smoked in the mid-1960s.
Experts attribute the decline to smoking bans, cigarette taxes and anti-smoking campaigns by non-profit groups such as the American Society of Cancer and the federal government.  The new notices are the result of a 1999 lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice under President Bill Clinton that sought to recover some of the billions that the federal government spent on caring for people with tobacco-related diseases.
The government in 2006 ruled that Big Tobacco had "lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public" about the effects of smoking for more than 50 years. The decision was made almost a decade after the US states. UU They will reach legal agreements with the industry worth $ 246 billion.
But according to the organized crime laws used to prosecute the federal case, the judge said he could not pay the companies. "Corrective statements" in advertisements, as well as on their websites, cigarette packs and store displays.
The campaign will be paid for by Altria Group, owner of Philip Morris USA, and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., a division of British American Tobacco.
Altria, maker of Marlboros, forwarded the queries to a statement issued last month: "We remain committed to aligning our business practices with the society's expectations of a responsible company." This includes communicating openly about the effects on the company. health of our products "
Reynolds, who sells Camel cigarettes, did not respond to a request for comment.
Originally, the US government UU He wanted the companies to declare that they had lied about the risks of smoking. But the companies successfully challenged that proposal, arguing that it was "designed only to embarrbad and humiliate." An appellate court ruled that the announcements could only be objective and prospective.
Even the phrase "here is the truth" was disputed and blocked "Here is the truth: smoking is very addictive and it is not easy to give up," said a proposed message.
"This was a clbadic case of a very rich group of defendants willing to appeal every conceivable issue over and over again," said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco. Kids, one of several antitabáquicos groups that intervened in the judicial case.
More than half a century ago, the American media was saturated with tobacco advertising. Cigarettes were the most publicized product on TV and the tobacco companies sponsored hundreds of shows, including "I Love Lucy", "The Flintstones" and "Perry Mason". People smoked almost everywhere, in restaurants, airplanes and doctors' offices.
Congress banned the advertising of radio and television cigarettes in 1970 and subsequent restrictions have excluded the billboard and public transportation industry. However, businesses still spend more than $ 8 billion annually on marketing, including print advertising, mail-in coupons, and store displays.
Tobacco advocates estimate that upcoming television ads will cost companies a small fraction of that, around $ 30 million. The transmitted notices will be issued five times a week for one year and the newspaper ads will run five times during several months in approximately 50 national newspapers.
Robin Koval, president of the Truth Initiative, has seen mock-ups of television ads in court and says they are not very attractive.
"It's a black guy moving on a white screen with the least interesting voice in the background," said Koval, whose group runs anti-smoking educational advertisements aimed at young people.
Nine out of 10 smokers start smoking before age 18, so most prevention efforts are focused on adolescents. However, less than 5 percent of viewers in the current network are less than 25 years old, according to Nielsen TV data cited by Koval's group. While the lawyers badyzed the details of television ads, consumers increasingly switched to online social networking sites and streaming services such as Facebook, YouTube and Netflix.
A former smoker who was shown the models called them terrible.  "They were not very convincing ads," said Ellie Mixter-Keller, 62, of Wauwatosa, Wis., Who smoked a pack a day for 30 years before quitting 12 years ago. "I just do not know if I would have cared about that"