Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 4, 2007
 
Contact: Robyn Ziegler
312-814-3118
rziegler@atg.state.il.us
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL MADIGAN FILES SUIT TO CHALLENGE R.J. REYNOLDS CIGARETTE ADVERTISEMENTS

Rolling Stone Ad Uses Cartoon Characters to Promote Cigarette Smoking to Young People

Chicago – Continuing her tough stance to protect teens from the dangers of cigarette smoking, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan today filed a motion against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) alleging that RJR is illegally marketing cigarettes to youth through a current advertising campaign.

Madigan's action, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County , is a motion to hold RJR in contempt for violating the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). That agreement, which the tobacco industry signed to end the national tobacco litigation, expressly prohibits the use of cartoons to advertise or promote cigarettes.

The motion challenges RJR's publication of a nine-page advertisement in the Nov. 15 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. This advertisement uses cartoon characters to promote Camel cigarettes. Madigan's motion also challenges RJR's use of a cartoon-filled film advertisement at a November 21 concert that RJR sponsored at a Chicago nightclub.

“RJR continues to use its advertisements to lure young people into a deathly habit that remains the number one preventable cause of death in the United States ,” Madigan said . “I will continue to work to protect children and teens from any effort to convince them to start smoking.”

“Just when the merchants of death are no longer on your television and on the giant outdoor billboards passed on the way to and from school, you now can find them in the publications so popular with your children,” said “Kwesi” Ronald Harris, tobacco control advocate and member, Partnership for a Smoke-Free Illinois. “Big tobacco and its vast financial resources are skilled at injecting ads into popular culture. By utilizing popular captions, comics and cartoon-like images all promoting youth interest, they've once again mounted their attack, using sometimes subtle themes. The tobacco industry still seeks to seduce our children into the dangerous use of their products.”

Joel Africk, president and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago said, “We applaud Attorney General Madigan for standing up to big tobacco. There are few things more troubling than the continued marketing of cigarettes to our nation's youth,”

Madigan's motion asks the Circuit Court to hold RJR in contempt and to fine the cigarette maker more than $6.5 million. Madigan also is asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order to keep RJR from showing the cartoon-filled advertising at two concerts that RJR is sponsoring in Chicago later this month.

“The Camel ads in Rolling Stone magazine are a blatant and egregious attempt to market cigarettes to children and circumvent the Master Settlement Agreement. If R.J. Reynolds and Rolling Stone are allowed to get away with this type of advertising, it will undermine the MSA's entire ban on these cartoon characters to market cigarettes,” said Matthew Myers, president, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

“We applaud Attorney General Lisa Madigan for her quick and decisive action to have the new R.J. Reynolds advertising campaign removed from Rolling Stone magazine,” stated Harold Wimmer, president & CEO of the American Lung Association of Illinois-Greater Chicago.  “The ad campaign that appeared in the recent 40 th Anniversary issue is a deliberate attempt to lure more youths to tobacco products and an obvious violation of the Master Settlement Agreement.  While the tobacco industry continues its deceptive practices, we are proud of our attorney general for upholding MSA and protecting Illinois youth.”

“This suit, and others filed across the country, should tell the tobacco companies that we will not tolerate efforts to breed a new generation of smokers,” Madigan said.

The attorneys general of California , Connecticut , Maryland , New York , Ohio , Pennsylvania and Washington are filing similar actions in their respective state courts today, collectively asking for tens of millions of dollars in penalties against RJR for violating the terms of the MSA.

The 1998 MSA settled claims against the tobacco companies, including allegations that the tobacco companies intentionally marketed cigarettes to children and hid cigarettes' addictive qualities and damaging health effects. It created a broad array of restrictions on the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes. For example, it prohibits the targeting of youth and the use of cartoons in cigarette advertising. It also includes prohibitions on outdoor advertising of cigarettes and the advertising of cigarettes in public transit facilities, as well as the use of cigarette brand names on merchandise.

The central purpose of the MSA was to reduce smoking, and particularly youth smoking, in the United States . According to the National Association of Attorneys General, since 1997, when the first State settlement was announced, cigarette sales in the United States have fallen by more than 21 percent. Cigarette sales in 2005 declined by 4.2 percent from 2004 levels, marking the largest one-year percentage decrease in cigarette sales since 1999. The 378 billion cigarettes sold in the United States in 2005 represented the lowest number of cigarettes sold in the United States since 1951, when the U.S. population was less than half of what it was in 2005.

However, recent research results from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Michigan indicate that the previous declines in smoking rates ended in 2006, for both youth and adults. Because the tobacco companies continue to spend $36 million each day to market their products, Attorney General Madigan and other state attorneys general have continued to actively enforce the provisions of the MSA to reduce tobacco use and protect consumers.

In July 2004, Attorney General Madigan filed a motion to enforce the MSA against Brown & Williamson (B&W), which RJR bought in July 2004, based on B&W's KOOL MIXX hip hop promotion that Madigan alleged was targeted at youth. In October 2004, RJR settled with Illinois , New York and Maryland and agreed to end its KOOL MIXX promotion and pay $1.5 million in sanctions and costs.

In October 2006, Madigan announced that RJR and the attorneys general of 38 other states and jurisdictions entered into a settlement ending the sale of RJR's candy, fruit and alcohol flavored cigarettes that the attorneys general believed had been targeted at youth. 

To view the ads in question, please visit the Illinois attorney general's Web site: www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov. A link to downloadable PDF versions of the ads as well as the motion filed today in Cook County Circuit Court may be found on the site's homepage.

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