Attorney General Bill Lockyer Wins Major Court Ruling Against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

Company Violates Restrictions on Outdoor Advertising at Sporting Events

Friday, December 7, 2001
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(SACRAMENTO) – In a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a San Diego Superior Court ruled today that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's advertising campaign at stock car and drag racing events it sponsors violates the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement banning most outdoor advertising for tobacco products.

"This represents a victory for every Californian concerned about their health and that of their families," Lockyer said. "It is obvious that this tobacco company is illegally using their sponsored events to try and sidestep restrictions on advertising of their deadly tobacco products."

The lawsuit, filed in March 19, alleges that R.J. Reynolds' outdoor advertising at its NASCAR Winston Cup and the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series violates provisions of the global settlement that restrict the posting of outdoor advertising for tobacco brand name sponsorships to the site of the sponsored events and limit it to 90 days before and 10 days after the events.

R.J. Reynolds argued that because both its stock car and drag racing events are held nationwide during a nearly year-long season, the company can advertise year-round at every site where a race in the series is scheduled. Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Prager disagreed.

Other states also have challenged R.J. Reynolds over their event sponsorship advertising. Last month, a trial court in Arizona issued a similar ruling against the company. Cases also are pending in Washington and New York.

The case is one of several the California attorney general has filed against R.J. Reynolds over alleged violations of the MSA. In a case settled last December, the company agreed to stop distributing free cigarettes through the mail without first properly verifying the identity of recipients and making sure they wanted to participate in consumer testing and evaluation of cigarettes. A lawsuit over the company's placement of ads in magazines with large youth audiences is set for trial in April.

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