Jul. 21 2004
Washington, DC — 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 kids since the 1998 state tobacco settlement. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds the decision by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to initiate enforcement action under the state tobacco settlement to stop Brown & Williamson’s Kool Mixx cigarette marketing campaign that is clearly aimed at youth, and African-American youth in particular. The lawsuit seeks several million dollars in damages and demands an end to this promotion in Illinois. This action is necessary 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.
In June, the New York Supreme Court issued a preliminary order halting B&W’s Kool Mixx website and recalling special cigarette packs and brand merchandise. New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer had asked the Court to rule against B&W for targeting kids. Earlier this month, Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran initiated a $5 million lawsuit against Brown & Williamson to stop the Kool Mixx tobacco promotion in Maryland.
The Kool Mixx 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, attorneys general from 29 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico asserted that B&W’s 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 asserted 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.
These actions by state attorneys general send 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. Brown & Williamson’s actions 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.