American tobacco companies are returning to prime-time TV after decades of being banned from advertising on the air. They'll also be appearing in print.

But the ads won't be selling any products. Instead, the messages are intended as blunt warnings against the dangers of smoking and the addictive properties of tobacco.

The spots are the result of a 1999 lawsuit filed by the Justice Department that sought to recover some of the money spent by the federal government in treating people with tobacco-related illnesses.

Years of legal pushback by the industry delayed the new campaign until it began Sunday. The ads are required to run for 52 weeks.

Mary Rouvelas with the American Cancer Society says the ads have been a long time coming, and she's glad these tobacco companies are being held publicly accountable.

“The industry can no longer hide behind its bad practices, because at the end of the day, these are practices that end up killing people,”

Despite a sharp decline in cigarette use, smoking remains the nation's deadliest preventable cause of illness.

Two companies will foot the bill for the campaign: Altria Group and Winston-Salem-based R.J. Reynolds, which was recently acquired by British American Tobacco.

WFDD reached out to R.J. Reynolds for comment, but the company did not respond.

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