Dec. 23 2004
Washington, DC — After two years of denying responsibility for its actions, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company has finally agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against the company by the state of California. Originally convicted in 2002 of violating the 1998 Tobacco Settlement by marketing to kids in California, RJR has now agreed to limit its tobacco advertising in magazines with large youth readership and avoid publications with at least 15 percent teen readership. In addition, RJR must pay $11.4 million in civil penalties and $5.9 million in legal costs for its reprehensible behavior.
Although RJR has agreed to stop advertising directed at kids in California, the company continues to market aggressively to kids with its candy-flavored cigarettes such as “Warm Winter Toffee” and “Winter Mocha Mint.” Earlier this year, RJR attempted to market two other candy-flavored cigarettes including the coconut and pineapple flavored “Kauai Kolada” which brought a stinging rebuke from the Governor of Hawaii. Governor Linda Lingle said in a statement, “Using the name of Kauai and Hawaii images to market cigarettes to young people is disgusting.”
RJR’s continued marketing to kids demonstrates the need once again for federal legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products, including the authority to ban candy-flavored cigarettes and crack down on other tobacco marketing to kids. RJR played a key role in defeating the FDA legislation in the last Congress precisely so it could continue to engage in irresponsible marketing such as the candy-flavored cigarettes. It’s no surprise that this is the same company that conducted the infamous “Joe Camel” campaign that used a cartoon character to get kids to start smoking. The tobacco companies clearly will not change their harmful practices unless they are forced to do so.
The California settlement with RJR 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 continue to aggressively pursue its lawsuit against the tobacco industry currently being argued in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C.
We congratulate California Attorney General Bill Lockyer for his leadership in aggressively enforcing 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.”