States plan to sue over cigarette advertisements

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2004

WASHINGTON More than two dozen states, including Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho, say they plan to sue Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., accusing the company of targeting young people with its Kool cigarette marketing campaign.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sent the Louis-ville, Ky.-based company a letter saying images of rappers, disc jockeys and dancers featured on Kool cigarette packs and in ads ''all appeal to youth.''

Brown and Williamson was among the companies that agreed in 1998 to pay $206 billion to settle smoking-related health care claims brought by states. Under terms of the settlement, tobacco companies are barred from targeting teens through advertising or marketing. The agreement requires the states to give tobacco companies one month's notice before a lawsuit is filed. Spitzer sent the letter Friday.

Brown and Williamson spokesperson Mark Smith denied the company is marketing Kool cigarettes to kids.

''We're going for adults, and adults for us start at 21,'' he said.

Sherri Watson Hyde, who heads the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, believes children particularly blacks are the target of the campaign.

''The flair of this promotion definitely has an appeal to an audience that is younger than 21 or younger than 18,'' Hyde said.

Brown & Williamson sent the attorneys general a letter last month saying it had stopped distributing Kool cigarette packs featuring hip-hop characters. The company also said it stopped giving away promotional CD-ROMs and running magazine ads as part of the campaign, which includes a national disc jockey competition.

Spitzer said the CD-ROM giveaway violates a portion of the settlement barring companies from distributing non-tobacco merchandise showing cigarette brand names.

The letter was sent by Spitzer on behalf of his state as well as Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

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