Tobacco-Free Kids Welcomes Action by State Attorneys General To Stop R.J. Reynolds' Marketing to Kids

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Dec. 4 2007

Washington, D.C. — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds the eight state attorneys general who today have taken quick and aggressive action to stop R.J. Reynolds’ unscrupulous new marketing campaign for Camel cigarettes that clearly appeals to youth, in violation of the 1998 state tobacco settlement. The attorneys general have sued R.J. Reynolds for violating the settlement with a new Camel ad in Rolling Stone magazine that announced a promotion involving “indie rock” bands and came wrapped around a four-page cartoon insert that listed such bands. While R.J. Reynolds and Rolling Stone claimed the cartoon was “editorial content” and not part of the Camel ad, the nine-page spread appeared to be one giant cigarette ad that violates the tobacco settlement’s prohibition on the use of cartoons to market cigarettes.

Today’s announcement by the attorneys general represents the aggressive enforcement action needed to put teeth in the tobacco settlement’s prohibition on marketing to youth, including its prohibition on the use of cartoons. The settlement states, “No Participating Manufacturer may take any action, directly or indirectly, to target Youth within any Settling State in the advertising, promotion or marketing of Tobacco Products.” The attorneys general are seeking financial penalties that could total more than $100 million if every state joins the action ($100 per magazine distributed and $100 per hit on R.J. Reynolds’ Web site, www.thefarmrocks.com). The attorneys general are also seeking the removal of the cartoon images from all websites, ads and other promotional materials and a payment by R.J. Reynolds to the American Legacy Foundation to support tobacco prevention advertisements.

We applaud the bipartisanship leadership shown by Attorney Generals Jerry Brown of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Lisa Madigan of Illinois, Douglas Gansler of Maryland, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Marc Dann of Ohio, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Rob McKenna of Washington.

Strong enforcement action is necessary to stop R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies from continuing to circumvent the tobacco settlement and find new ways to market cigarettes to children. The tobacco companies have demonstrated by their actions that they will not make real change unless they are forced to do so.

As the attorneys general noted today, R.J. Reynolds – the same company that once marketed cigarettes to kids with the now-banned Joe Camel cartoon character – has repeatedly faced legal action for possible violations of the tobacco settlement. While R.J. Reynolds last week stated that it will not advertise in magazines and newspapers in 2008, the company is already circumventing its own policy. According to a report in BrandWeek magazine, R.J. Reynolds is transferring its Marshall McGearty premium cigarette brand to Santa Fe Natural Tobacco, another unit of parent company Reynolds American, to continue advertising this brand in newspapers. R.J. Reynolds has refused to make its decision not to market in magazines permanent and made clear that it reserves the right to reverse its new advertising policy at any time. In addition, the policy apparently does not apply to other Reynolds American companies, including Santa Fe Natural Tobacco and the Conwood smokeless tobacco company.

Aggressive actions by the state attorneys general have been critical in reining in the marketing practices of R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies. It is also critical that Congress build on the tobacco settlement’s marketing restrictions, which addressed only a small portion of tobacco marketing, by enacting legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products. This legislation goes beyond the settlement in restricting tobacco marketing and sales to kids, including restricting all tobacco advertising in stores and in magazines with high youth readership to black and white text only. This legislation would also require that tobacco companies disclose the contents of tobacco products and reduce or remove harmful ingredients; stop tobacco companies from misleading the public about the health risks of their products; and require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products.

 

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