USA Today Examines Lawsuits Filed To Block State Anti-Tobacco Advertisements
USA Today examines lawsuits filed in California in which tobacco companies allege that state-produced anti-tobacco advertisements are "nasty personal attacks that are unfairly tipping juries against them in smokers' personal injury suits" (Kasindorf, USA Today, 6/9). R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard on April 1 filed a lawsuit in Sacramento federal court that seeks an injunction against the ads. The lawsuit alleges that the ads, funded by the tobacco industry, violate the constitutional rights of the companies. The ads, produced by the Department of Health Services, are funded with a 25-cent-per-pack state tax on cigarettes approved by California voters in 1988 as Proposition 99, which established the Cigarette and Tobacco Products Surtax Fund. According to the lawsuit, a "central component of the right of free speech is the right not to be compelled to pay for speech that one would not voluntarily fund." The lawsuit also alleges that the state has violated the right that tobacco companies have to a fair trial because the ads could prompt future juries to believe that the "tobacco industry is a very powerful, deceptive and dangerous enemy of the public's health." In addition, the lawsuit alleges that California has denied tobacco companies their right to due process because the state does not allow the companies to question the validity of the ads (California Healthline, 4/3). The companies also have filed a lawsuit with similar allegations in a Delaware court.
Tobacco company officials maintain that they do not oppose anti-tobacco ads with health-related messages but seek to block the "aggressive" ad campaign in California because of the "anti-industry" message, USA Today reports. Many other states have revised ad campaigns to "soften anti-smoking messages" because teenagers did not respond to ads that criticized the tobacco industry, according to USA Today. The "implied question" in the lawsuits is "whether cigarette companies ... will gain a veto over the content of the messages aimed at cutting the number of young tobacco consumers," USA Today reports. A federal judge will likely decide whether to ban 49 broadcast ads produced by the state at a hearing today in Sacramento (USA Today, 6/9). KQED's "The California Report" today included a segment on the lawsuit (Margolis, "The California Report," KQED, 6/9). The full segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.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.