Oct. 11 2006
Washington, DC — Today's announcement by several state attorneys general that they have reached a settlement with R.J. Reynolds to stop the marketing of candy and alcohol-flavored cigarettes in the United States is a welcome step forward in restricting the marketing of tobacco products to America's children. The fact that RJR agreed to stop marketing these blatantly youth-oriented products only when threatened with legal action speaks volumes about the tobacco industry's continued efforts to market to kids, as confirmed by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in August when she found the major cigarette companies guilty of violating civil racketeering laws.
There is no more flagrant recent example of tobacco marketing to kids than RJR's candy and alcohol-flavored cigarettes. Today's settlement achieves a major public health victory for America's kids and families in the never-ending battle to prevent the tobacco industry from marketing to our children. Candy-flavored cigarettes are a clear violation of the 1998 state tobacco settlement's prohibition on "any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth… in the advertising, promotion or marketing of tobacco products."
While this settlement is an important step forward, much more must be done to stop the tobacco companies from continuing to deceive the public and market to children both in the United States and around the world. This settlement applies only to RJR and only in the U.S., and even if many of the other cigarette manufacturers that are part of the Master Settlement Agreement agree to the same restrictions as RJR, a growing number of small manufacturers are not party to the 1998 settlement. Today's settlement also does not apply to smokeless tobacco manufacturers such as the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, which has marketed products with a wide range of candy and fruit flavors.
To protect our children, states should enact legislation that bans all candy and alcohol-flavored cigarettes and applies to all manufacturers. The New York Legislature is currently considering such legislation. New York should enact this legislation this year, and other states should quickly follow suit.
Congress should enact long-pending legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products, including the authority to crack down on all forms of tobacco marketing and sales to children. This legislation would ban the sale of candy-flavored tobacco products by any company. The FDA would also have the authority to stop the tobacco companies from misleading consumers and require changes in tobacco products to make them less harmful and less addictive.
It is outrageous that RJR has not agreed to stop marketing candy-flavored cigarettes outside the United States. RJR evidently thinks it should be allowed to market to children overseas even if it has been told to stop doing so in the U.S. This is the second time in recent months that tobacco companies have sought to continue harmful marketing practice abroad that they have been ordered to stop in the U.S. They sought to continue marketing cigarettes as "light" and "low tar" abroad after Judge Kessler banned these terms in the U.S. as misleading to smokers.
Fortunately, the new international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, provides countries with powerful tools to fight back. Among its provisions, the treaty calls on ratifying nations (now numbering 140) to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (with an exception for nations with constitutional constraints). Harmful tobacco industry practices such as the marketing of candy-flavored cigarettes underscore why it is critical that nations effectively implement the treaty.
Despite their claims of reform, the evidence is clear that the tobacco companies continue to mislead consumers and market to children, as Judge Kessler found in her recent ruling: "Defendants continue to engage in many practices which target youth, and deny that they do so." R.J. Reynolds' marketing of candy and alcohol-flavored cigarettes is a prominent example. RJR has marketed candy and fruit-flavored versions of its Camel cigarettes with names like Kauai Kolada, Twista Lime, Warm Winter Toffee and Mocha Mint. RJR has also marketed alcohol-flavored cigarettes and, under pressure from state attorneys general, stopped a promotion called "Drinks On Us" that involved coasters with mixed drink recipes and slogans encouraging binge drinking.
We congratulate the state attorneys general involved in today's important announcement. This settlement with RJR won't end tobacco marketing to kids, but it sends a strong message to Big Tobacco that its deceitful behavior won't be tolerated and it will be held accountable for willfully addicting kids and continuing to lie about it.