May. 10 2004
Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids welcomes the decision by attorneys general of 29 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to initiate enforcement action under the 1998 state tobacco settlement to stop a Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. cigarette marketing campaign that is clearly aimed at youth, and African-American youth in particular. This represents the aggressive enforcement needed to put teeth in the tobacco settlement’s prohibition on any tobacco industry targeting of our children. Unless they are forced to stop, it is clear that the tobacco companies will continue to implement cynical marketing campaigns that target our children, bringing more addiction, disease and death.
Brown & Williamson’s use of a hip-hop music theme to promote its Kool cigarettes represents one of the most blatant examples of cigarette marketing to children since the state tobacco settlement. The campaign features images of young rappers, disc jockeys and dancers on cigarette packs and in advertising, as well as music CD-ROMs, radio giveaways with cigarette purchases and a disc jockey competition in major cities around the country. The themes, images, radio giveaways and music involved in the campaign all clearly have tremendous appeal to youth, especially African-American youth. In a May 7, 2004, letter to Brown & Williamson, the state attorneys general assert that this marketing campaign violates the tobacco settlement’s prohibition on “any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth within any settling state in the advertising, promotion or marketing of tobacco products.” They also assert that the marketing campaign violates the settlement’s prohibition on the placement of tobacco products in media (in this case, the music CD-ROM) and the use of a cigarette brand name on non-tobacco merchandise (the CD-ROM and the radio). In their letter, the state attorneys general called on Brown & Williamson to pull all promotions and advertisements for this campaign from the marketplace and to refrain from similar promotions in the future. Under the settlement, the states must give the tobacco companies one month’s notice before filing a lawsuit to enforce the settlement.
This action by the state attorneys general sends a clear 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.