Jul. 27 2005
Washington, DC — A complaint filed today by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer against U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (USSTC) points up yet another glaring example of tobacco company misconduct in marketing to kids and failure to honor signed agreements not to do so. Although USSTC has signed and agreed to abide by the terms of the 1998 Smokeless Master Settlement Agreement, promising not to take “any action, directly or indirectly to target youth,” the California complaint accuses USSTC of sponsoring National Hotrod Association (NHRA) events even though NHRA allows 16 and 17 year-old drivers to participate in its Powerade national series. The complaint also cites USSTC’s distribution of both its products and other brand name merchandise at NHRA events, which is a further violation of the Smokeless agreement that USSTC is bound by. Attorney General Lockyer is asking for a consent order that would force USSTC to drop its NHRA sponsorship and end it’s marketing and product placement activities. The complaint also asks for unspecified monetary sanctions and a citation for civil contempt against USSTC for breaking its promise not to market to kids.
This is not the first time that USSTC has been accused of flaunting the youth marketing provisions of the Smokeless MSA that the company promised to abide by. A 2002 study by the Massachusetts Department of Health showed that after promising not to market to kids in 1998, USSTC increased its advertising in youth oriented publications after the settlement, placing nearly half the company’s magazine advertising in publications with high youth readership, such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated.
USSTC’s behavior in disregarding the youth marketing provisions of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement shows once again that although the tobacco industry loudly proclaims that it has changed and no longer engages in marketing to kids, there is ample evidence to show that these reprehensible practices continue to this day. We applaud Attorney General Lockyer’s actions and urge all state attorneys general to continue to aggressively enforce the provisions of the Master Settlement Agreement against both cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies. Continued marketing to kids by tobacco companies like USSTC underscores the need for Congress to finally pass legislation giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco, including the authority to crack down hard on companies that market to kids.