Judge ‘Tentatively’ Dismisses Lawsuit Accusing Tobacco Companies of Targeting Ads at Teens
A San Diego judge "tentatively dismissed" a class-action lawsuit accusing Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard of "improperly marketing cigarettes to teenagers," the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 9/16). In December of 2000, San Diego residents who began smoking in their teens filed a class-action suit on behalf of the nearly 1.5 million California teens who smoked between April 1994 and December 1999. The suit contended that in-store tobacco promotions placed in areas, such as near candy shelves, attract children and encourage minors to smoke. The suit is seeking $682 million, the estimated profits from sales made on the teen-targeted ads (California Healthline, 12/7/00). Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager said in a preliminary ruling that there was no evidence that the ads directly encouraged teens to smoke. The plaintiffs have until Tuesday to decide whether to present an oral argument to the judge later this month (AP/New York Times, 9/14).
In related news, Phillip Morris and Lorillard have pulled their anti-smoking ads following concerns from anti-smoking advocates that tobacco companies have "used their slick anti-smoking ads to subliminally encourage more teens to pick up the deadly habit," the Boston Globe reports. Phillip Morris announced the end of its ad campaign last week, and Lorillard's youth anti-smoking ad last month was dropped as a sponsor of the National Basketball Association youth tournament. Advocates say that tobacco companies' anti-smoking ads are "too effective ... at the wrong thing" -- making cigarette smoking seem "grown-up," which added to the smoking's "forbidden fruit appeal" -- and "glos[s] over" health risks. American Legacy Foundation President Cheryl Healton said, "We never asked [the tobacco companies] to get involved in making teen prevention ads. It's like asking the fox to watch the chicken coop." Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids spokesperson Joel Spivak added, "They should just stay away from kids." But Howard Willard, senior vice president of youth smoking prevention for Philip Morris, said the company believes it has a responsibility to produce anti-smoking messages. He added that Philip Morris will continue its anti-smoking efforts despite reducing its youth prevention budget to $50 million from $100 million and dropping its "Think. Don't smoke" campaign. The company's next campaign will focus on "parents as the messengers" for anti-smoking sentiments, Willard said. Lorillard spokesperson Steve Watson added that the company's anti-smoking ads are "effective" (Wen, Boston Globe, 9/16).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.