Apr. 2 2003
Washington, D.C. — It is hard to imagine a more absurd claim than the one made by the R.J. Reynolds (RJR) and Lorillard Tobacco Companies in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday against the State of California's highly successful tobacco prevention program. The two tobacco companies allege that California's anti-smoking advertisements, which tell the truth about the tobacco industry's harmful practices and products, "vilify" them and violate their constitutional rights.
This lawsuit is a colossal act of hypocrisy that shows R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard cannot be taken seriously when they say they do not want kids to smoke. Instead of matching their words with action, the tobacco companies have a pattern of opposing effective state and national tobacco prevention programs, offering their own ineffective alternatives, and increasing their cigarette marketing in ways effective at addicting children.
R.J. Reynolds last year was fined $20 million by a California judge for targeting kids with magazine advertising in violation of the 1998 state tobacco settlement agreement. Instead of changing its marketing practices, RJR continues to advertise in magazines such as Sports Illustrated that have large youth readerships and recently introduced new ads using surfing imagery that clearly appeals to youth. Lorillard has filed a lawsuit to silence the American Legacy Foundation's highly successful "truth" youth anti-smoking advertising campaign, and Lorillard's "Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen" campaign is the ultimate example of a bogus "prevention" campaign. Lorillard has also sought to reach large youth audiences with its harmful messages and crowd out real prevention programs by buying sponsorships of youth-oriented organizations and events such as ESPN's X Games and youth basketball tournaments. In addition, the tobacco companies increased their total tobacco marketing by 42 percent to a record $9.6 billion in 2000 (the most recent year for which data is available) after promising in the 1998 settlement to stop targeting kids. Much of this is spent in ways effective at reaching kids, such as magazines and convenience stores.
Although the tobacco industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to convince the public that it has changed, the RJR-Lorillard lawsuit in California shows that Big Tobacco is still up to the same old tricks. The tobacco industry's behavior underscores why California and other states must redouble their efforts to prevent our kids from starting to smoke and help adults quit through proven measures such as comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs, cigarette tax increases and smoke-free workplace policies.