California Judge Finds R.J. Reynolds Guilty of Marketing to Kids in Violation of 1998 Settlement Agreement

Statement by Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 6 2002

Washington, DC — In a case of national significance, California judge has fined R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company $20 million for targeting California kids with magazine advertising in direct violation of the terms of the 1998 tobacco settlement with the State of California. The court's decision proves that the tobacco settlement agreement has teeth and that the judicial system is prepared to enforce the agreement that the tobacco companies made with the states. The court also ordered RJR to take all "reasonable" steps to stop advertising aimed at kids. Today's ruling is a stinging condemnation of RJR's irresponsible advertising practices and demonstrates that RJR has willfully violated its promise not to market to kids.

We congratulate California Attorney General Bill Lockyer for his leadership in seeking to aggressively enforce the provisions of the MSA aimed at stopping the tobacco companies from marketing to kids. This ruling should spur other State attorneys general to aggressively pursue any violations by the tobacco industry of the settlement's prohibition on "any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth." Since the 1998 settlement, there has been growing evidence that the tobacco industry has systematically violated both the spirit and the intent of the prohibition on targeting youth through continued advertising in youth-oriented magazines, convenience stores, and other venues effective at reaching kids. Just yesterday, the Massachusetts Department of Health released a study showing that since the settlement, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company has greatly increased its advertising in publications with high youth readership despite promising not to do so.

This ruling sends a message to the U.S. Department of Justice that the evidence of continued tobacco industry marketing to kids is strong and the Justice Department should aggressively pursue its lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The ruling also underscores the necessity for Congress to pass strong legislation giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration full authority to regulate the tobacco industry and stop Big Tobacco from continuing to target our kids.

 

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