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Attorney General Reaches Settlement with R.J. Reynolds Over Free Cigarette Mailings
(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced a settlement with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company over allegations the company violated terms of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and state consumer protection laws in its mailing of free cigarettes to Californians.
The dispute concerns Reynolds' nationwide program of distributing massive quantities of free cigarettes through the mail to individuals' homes. The MSA prohibits tobacco companies from giving away free samples where children might gain access. According to Reynolds, the reason for this distribution was consumer evaluation and testing, which is allowed by the MSA. However, many of the persons who received the free cigarettes had not asked to receive them, and some were non-smokers.
The settlement, approved by the San Diego Superior Court on December 28, 2000, provides that Reynolds may mail free cigarettes only to adults who have given their prior consent to receive the free cigarettes specifically for evaluation or testing purposes. Reynolds must verify that each person who signs one of its consent forms is indeed an adult, and may only mail free cigarettes to persons whose consent forms or consumer evaluation forms are recent (received within the prior 180 days). The settlement also limits the number of packs per mailing and limits the size of mailers so they fit into the smallest slot allowed by Postal regulations. Under the settlement, Reynolds must report the number of free cigarettes it mails to Californians.
"The Master Settlement Agreement is designed to help protect children from inappropriate marketing practices," Lockyer stated. "Thanks to this settlement agreement, we will be protecting children from the marketing tactics used by tobacco companies."
R.J. Reynolds also agreed to pay $175,000 for investigative costs, to be shared between California and Arizona. Lockyer worked with Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano to reach the settlement agreement with Reynolds.
To enforce state laws involving tobacco, Attorney General Lockyer has established a full-time state tobacco enforcement unit. Consumers can call a complaint line, 916-565-6486, to report suspected violations of the Master Settlement Agreement. Inquiries and reports of suspected violations can also be mailed to the Tobacco Litigation Section at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Additional information is available on the Attorney General's Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement website, http://ag.ca.gov/tobacco/