State Asks Superior Court Judge to Impose $20M Fine Against R.J. Reynolds in Tobacco Advertising Case
California attorneys offered closing arguments on Monday in the state's case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., saying the tobacco firm should be fined $20 million and banned from advertising in 50 magazines to prevent the company from "targeting" teenagers, the AP/San Mateo County Times reports. "This is the story of a company that refused over a long period to change its policies and practices as regards to teen exposure," Karen Leaf of the state attorney general's office said (Hettena, AP/San Mateo County Times, 5/21). Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) filed the lawsuit last year, arguing that Reynolds violated the national tobacco settlement by "indirectly" targeting youths in its advertising when the company failed to take "meaningful steps to avoid reaching significant numbers of teens." The state is seeking monetary sanctions and a court order to force Reynolds to alter its advertising practices (California Healthline, 4/22). Although the settlement does not specifically mention magazine advertising, it does ban "any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth." Reynolds has argued that its magazine ad campaign does not target teenagers, as company policy restricts ads to magazines with less than 25% youth readership. A restriction on ads would violate the firm's First Amendment rights, according to company lawyers. "They want you to hold us in contempt and fine us $20 million for exercising a constitutional right," attorney Jeh Charles Johnson told Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager. A ruling in the case could come as early as next week (AP/San Mateo County Times, 5/21).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.