AG Announces Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against R.J. Reynolds

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Tom Corbett announced that Pennsylvania, along with several other states, have filed a series of multi-million dollar lawsuits against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for violating a national ban on the use of cartoons in the advertisement and promotion of cigarettes.

Corbett said today’s lawsuits are in response to a national advertising campaign in Rolling Stone magazine, published in November 2007, which includes a nine-page “special advertising section” for Camel brand cigarettes featuring numerous cartoon images.

“We view this cartoon-based advertising campaign as a flagrant violation of the 1998 national tobacco settlement, which includes an outright ban on the use of any cartoon in tobacco advertising,” Corbett said. “Our lawsuit is part of what we hope becomes a nationwide legal action seeking more than $100-million in sanctions against R.J. Reynolds for violating the cartoon ban.”

Corbett said Pennsylvania is currently coordinating efforts with other states in order to bring similar suits across the country. Attorneys General from California, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Washington are in the process of filing similar legal actions in their states today.
Corbett said that over the past decade, Pennsylvania, along with other states, have repeatedly taken action against R.J. Reynolds concerning advertising campaigns that appeared to violate restrictions on “youth targeted marketing,” or other key provisions of the 1998 tobacco settlement.

“In our view, R.J. Reynolds has repeatedly tried to cross a clear line concerning advertising and marketing to young people,” Corbett said. “Their latest 9-page advertising spread in Rolling Stone, filled with cartoons, flies in the face of their pledge to halt all tobacco marketing to children.”

Corbett said that on October 16th, 2007, representatives for several state attorneys general met with R.J. Reynolds officials to clearly express concern over a number of recent advertising campaigns. Less than a month after that meeting, newsstands across the country have been filled with multi-page cartoon ads, aggressively marketing the Camel brand to a youth-filled audience.

“Unfortunately, this is not new territory for R.J. Reynolds,” Corbett said. “When that tobacco settlement was created, the “Joe Camel” advertising campaign was singled-out as especially offensive effort to market to children. Now, nearly a decade later, cartoons are still being used to promote the Camel brand.”

Corbett said the Pennsylvania lawsuit, being filed today in Philadelphia, asks the court to rule that R.J. Reynolds has violated the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The lawsuit seeks sanctions of at least $7-million for the printed copies of the illegal cartoon ads which were circulated in Pennsylvania. The suit also seeks a penalty of $100 for each “hit” on the R.J. Reynolds “The Farm Rocks” Web site.

Additionally, the suit seeks the removal of these cartoon images from all websites, ads and other promotional materials; a payment by R.J. Reynolds to the Legacy Foundation, equal to the full cost of the Rolling Stone advertisement, to be used to support anti-smoking advertisements; along with attorney’s fees and costs.

Corbett noted that if similar legal action is taken by every other state, the lawsuits could seek a total of more than $100-million in sanctions against R.J. Reynolds.

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