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Attorney General Bill Lockyer Files Lawsuits to Stop Tobacco Company From Targeting Children and Using Other Illegal Advertising Tools
Lawsuits are part of multi-state effort to enforce national tobacco settlement
(SACRAMENTO) -- Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed suit in San Diego Superior Court to stop R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company from violating the terms of the November 1998 national tobacco settlement that prohibits tobacco companies from targeting children through their magazine advertising.
Under the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), tobacco manufacturers are prohibited from taking 'any action, directly or indirectly, to target Youth within any Settling State in the advertising, promotion or marketing of Tobacco Products.'
"While the other three major tobacco companies have all taken meaningful first steps to reduce or eliminate their advertising in magazines having a substantial youth readership, Reynolds has continued to thumb its nose at the MSA,' according to Lockyer. 'By targeting our kids, Reynolds is attempting to auction the health of our children for future profits.'
Studies demonstrate that Reynolds' expenditures on advertising in youth-oriented publications increased after the signing of the MSA. Since that time, and unlike other tobacco companies, Reynolds has continued to place large amounts of advertising for its cigarette brands in publications with a substantial youth readership, exposing millions of youth to its advertising a substantial number of times. The Attorney General's own investigation and analysis shows that in 2000, Reynolds' ads in magazines whose readership is measured by national surveys reached 95% of America's youth ages 12-17 an average of fifty times during the year. In the past two years, Reynolds' ads have reached an almost equal percentage of youth as its claimed target audience: adults who smoke.
Reynolds' ads are reaching a huge number of children despite the fact that they could, but have refused to, design an ad campaign that reaches adult smokers–without exposing large numbers of children to its tobacco advertising. Magazines with high youth readership where Reynolds has placed advertisements include: Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, People, Vibe, Allure, Spin and In Style.
In a second lawsuit filed also filed today in San Diego Superior Court, Lockyer is seeking to stop Reynolds from violating a separate provision of the MSA that restricts outdoor advertisements for cigarettes. Although the MSA restricts outdoor advertising of brand name sponsorships to 90 days before and 10 days after the sponsored event, Reynolds displays advertising for such sponsorships all year long. The large outdoor signs advertising Reynolds' Winston sponsorships are viewed by millions of people both at the track and on television broadcasts of events at the track, including youth races and other events which the MSA prohibits Reynolds from sponsoring in the name of its Winston brand.
The lawsuits filed today are part of a cooperative effort on the part of the Attorneys General in five states to put an end to Reynolds' violations of the MSA in a number of critical areas. In addition to California, the states of Arizona, New York, Ohio and Washington also filed lawsuits today alleging continued violations of the MSA by Reynolds. Despite repeated attempts by the states to persuade Reynolds to address their concerns before the filing of the lawsuits, the company refused to make any meaningful changes to advertising practices.
"Reynolds has repeatedly violated key provisions of the MSA, which are intended to reduce youth exposure to tobacco advertising. We are certain that this multifaceted and multi-state response will send a strong message to Reynolds that it cannot continue to violate the MSA with impunity,' Lockyer said.
Attorney General Lockyer's full-time state tobacco enforcement unit's consumer complaint line, 916-565-6486, allows individuals to report suspected violations of the MSA. Inquiries and reports of suspected violations can also be mailed to the Tobacco Litigation Section at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. To learn more about the Master Settlement Agreement, please visit the California Attorney General's website, http://ag.ca.gov