Five States Sue RJ Reynolds
The attorneys general of five states, including California, announced yesterday that they have filed suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for allegedly violating various terms of the 1998 national tobacco settlement, the AP/Nando Times reports (Rizzo, AP/NandoTimes, 3/20). As part of the $206 billion agreement, the nation's cigarette manufacturers agreed to "phased-in restrictions on outdoor advertising and brand-name sponsorships, as well as curbs on the distribution of free samples and apparel and merchandise with brand-name logos," Reuters reports (Entous, Reuters, 3/19). The allegations against North Carolina-based Reynolds, the nation's second-leading cigarette maker, were filed in three separate complaints:
- The attorneys general of Arizona, California, New York and Washington filed suits alleging that Reynolds has "maintain[ed] continuous outdoor advertising" at auto racing venues in violation of the settlement, which states that tobacco companies can only "advertise a branded event ... for 90 days before and 10 days after the event" (Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, 3/20).
- A separate California suit alleges that Reynolds "has continuously and systematically targeted youth" smokers by placing "large numbers" of cigarette advertisements in magazines with a "substantial teen readership," such as Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, in violation of the settlement, which prohibits the "target[ing] of youth smokers. The state is seeking unspecified "monetary sanctions" and an order to make Reynolds alter its advertising practices. The Wall Street Journal reports that this suit in particular will be an "important test" of the settlement, because it is the first case to "raise the issue directly" of how far the agreement's "blanket prohibition" of youth advertisement extends (Wall Street Journal, 3/20).
- Ohio's suit charges that Reynolds has violated the advertisement restrictions of the agreement by placing its brand-name on matchbooks.
In announcing California's lawsuits, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) said, "We are certain that this multifaceted and multi-state response will send a strong message to Reynolds that it cannot continue to violate the (agreement) with impunity" (Reuters, 3/20). Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, added, "[Reynolds] has been the most brazen and egregious violator, taking the most extreme position on each of the settlement provisions that is the subject of the lawsuits filed today" (Los Angeles Times, 3/20). 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.