DOJ Proposes ‘Tough’ Restrictions on Cigarette Sales, May Signal New Evidence in Suit Against Tobacco Industry
In a move that may signal that the Bush administration intends to continue the government's "legal battle" with the tobacco industry, the Justice Department will request that a federal judge implement "tough restrictions on the marketing, manufacture and sale" of cigarettes, the Wall Street Journal reports. Justice Department lawyers outlined the proposed restrictions in pretrial documents filed in U.S. District Court in New York City. The government's requests include:
- Banning all vending-machine sales;
- Ending all "give-aways" and trade promotions;
- Requiring disclosure of all ingredients, additives and chemicals in cigarettes;
- Requiring cigarette packs to include a health information leaflet;
- Prohibiting the words "light," "low-tar" or "mild" on labels;
- Requiring disclosure of marketing research and manufacturing methods;
- Forbidding the use of "slotting fees" -- fees paid to retailers for "favorable placement" of tobacco products in stores.
The government also is asking that the court restrict all cigarette advertising to "print-only" black-and-white formats, and half of the ad space must be reserved for "graphic health warnings." In addition, the government is proposing changes to cigarette pack labels. The request asks that half of the surface of a cigarette pack be required to include graphic health warnings from the U.S. Surgeon General.
The Journal reports that the government's request may signal that the Justice Department has obtained new evidence against the industry. Many of the proposed restrictions are designed to reduce youth smoking, and the pretrial papers cite a secret industry study on "Brand Preferences Among Young Smokers" that surveyed smokers 12 to 20 years old. The Journal reports that the restrictions also indicate a "striking departure" for the Bush administration, which has been "friendly to the industry" so far. For example, Attorney General John Ashcroft last year pushed for a settlement in the case and has limited its funding in the past. However, Ashcroft's most recent budget request includes a $25 million funding increase for the litigation. With the proposed restrictions, the Journal reports that the industry is concerned that the case may "gain new momentum," even though support for the lawsuit among the senior staff at the Justice Department is "uncertain." Antitobacco advocates say that while they support the newly proposed restrictions, the Justice Department has sent "mixed signals" about pursuing the lawsuit. William Corr, executive vice president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "The Department of Justice attorneys are proceeding to meet the deadlines established by the court for the continuation of the lawsuit, but it is unclear whether the attorney general and other senior officials fully support the suit and will assure it is fully funded" (Wilke, Wall Street Journal, 3/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.