American Legacy Foundation Files Suit Against Lorillard to Preserve ‘Truth’ Anti-Smoking Ads
The American Legacy Foundation filed a lawsuit yesterday in an attempt to head off possible legal action by Lorillard Tobacco Co. challenging the foundation's provocative anti-smoking campaign, the AP/Winston-Salem Journal reports. The foundation, which was created as part of the 1998 national tobacco settlement to educate the public about the dangers of smoking, asked a Delaware court to rule that the group cannot be sued by Lorillard because the foundation was not an actual party to the $206 billion settlement. The move comes almost one month after Lorillard, the nation's fourth-largest tobacco company, said that it planned to sue the foundation for allegedly violating a provision of the settlement forbidding "any personal attack on, or vilification of" tobacco companies (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 2/14). Cheryl Healton, the foundation's president, said, "We've taken legal action to stop Lorillard from undermining and perhaps even killing" the foundation's anti-smoking ads, known as the "Truth" campaign, featuring "hard-hitting" spots including one in which body bags are piled up outside Philip Morris' headquarters (Wall Street Journal, 2/14). The New York Times reports that Lorillard, which wants future advertisements "toned down," became "enraged" by a radio ad the foundation ran in which a dog walker called Lorillard offering to provide the company with "quality dog urine" because it contains urea, a chemical found in cigarettes (Winter, New York Times, 2/14). Lorillard said that it does not add urea to cigarettes; the chemical is found naturally in tobacco leaves (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 2/14).
Lorillard spokesperson Steve Watson disputed the contention that the foundation, which tobacco companies agreed to pay $1.5 billion over five years as part of the settlement, should be exempt from a vilification lawsuit, stating, "The foundation is trying to distance itself from the very agreement that funds them." He added, "What other legal consumer product company could be accused of adding dog urine to their product and not be expected to respond aggressively?" (New York Times, 2/14). If the court decides against exempting the foundation from the lawsuit, the organization has asked the court to rule that the "Truth" campaign does not engage in vilification (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 2/14). According to a University of Michigan study, the campaign has helped decrease smoking rates among eighth graders by 42% in the past five years (New York Times, 2/14).