Big Tobacco Spending Millions on Court-Mandated Self-Critical Ads
Tobacco companies are not permitted to run advertisements for their products on television or on billboards.

Big Tobacco, including firms Altria Group Inc. (MO) and British American Tobacco PLC (BTI) , will begin running self-critical, court-mandated ads as part of a settlement of a lawsuit with the Justice Department over misleading statements that began nearly 20 years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The DOJ said two decades ago that Big Tobacco's statements on cigarettes and their health effects were deceptive, so the firms involved are being forced to spend millions of dollars on 30- to 45-second television ads to run five times per week during prime-time programming for the next year.

The ads won't have the graphic representations of the effects of cigarettes that most anti-smoking spots do, but rather will look akin to the disclosure statement at the end of a pharmaceutical advertisement. They'll have simple text on a white screen with voice-over narration.

Altria estimated it will spend $31 million on the ad spots, which will also include campaigns in newspapers and on company-owned websites. All of the defendants in the original 1999 lawsuit are now owned by either Altria or British American Tobacco.

Tobacco companies are not permitted to run advertisements for their products on television or on billboards. Legal settlements from tobacco-related suits have funded more than $1 billion in anti-smoking campaigns.

British American stock traded down 0.8% premarket. Altria shares were flat. 

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