Attorney General Cuomo Sues R.j. Reynolds For Violating Master Settlement Agreement
NEW YORK, NY (December 4, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he is suing R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) for using cartoons and brand-name merchandise to market its Camel cigarettes, which is a direct violation of the national Tobacco Master Settlement (MSA). Attorney General Cuomo’s filing is part of a multi-state effort to stop RJR’s illegal marketing; the attorneys general of seven other states filed similar actions in their respective courts today.
“R.J. Reynolds is trying to use cartoons and popular music to lure young people into a lifelong addiction to smoking,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “We will not allow this corporation’s clear and continuous disregard for the law and for the health of young people to go unchecked.”
RJR has been marketing its Camel cigarettes through its “The Farm: Free Range Music” advertising campaign. These advertisements feature cartoons and link Camel cigarettes to RJR’s support of independent rock music, which is popular with young people. A nine-page advertising spread of cartoons appeared in the November 17, 2007 “40th Anniversary Edition” of Rolling Stone Magazine. RJR also created a “FarmRocks” CD that it mailed out in Camel-branded, cartoon-imprinted packaging. The CD has now been labeled as a “collectible” item on eBay.
The MSA is a settlement with the tobacco industry that was signed in 1998 with New York and 51 other states and territories. As part of the MSA, a separate Consent Decree was signed with New York. The MSA prohibits tobacco companies from marketing to children and places other restrictions on all cigarette advertising. When the MSA was created, RJR’s “Joe Camel” advertising campaign was singled out as an especially offensive effort to market cigarette to children.
Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit demands $15 million in penalties for RJR’s violation of the MSA and the related Consent Decree with New York. It also seeks to immediately stop RJR from continuing with unlawful cartoon advertising and marketing gimmicks used in its CD packaging. In particular, as RJR is about to issue its second “FarmRocks” CD, the lawsuit aims to prevent the new CD from being distributed in illegal packaging. The lawsuit was filed in New York Supreme Court.
This is the third time New York has sued RJR for violations of the MSA. Most recently, in 2004, Justice Ramos of the New York Supreme Court ordered Reynolds to cease its “KOOL MIXX” hip hop advertising campaign, which was strikingly similar to the current “The Farm” advertising campaign.
The other states filing action against RJR today are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Christine Morrison, under the supervision of Dana Biberman, Chief of the Tobacco Bureau, and Mylan Denerstein, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice.