NOTICE: This is an archived press release. Information contained on this page may be outdated. Please refer to our latest press releases for up-to-date information.

Post date: June 17 2004

Spitzer Sues Brown & Williamson For Violating National Tobacco Settlement

New York State Attorney General Spitzer today announced the filing of a motion in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging that Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company ("B&W") is violating the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement ("MSA") through its marketing of Kool cigarettes.

B&W is running a national "Kool MIXX 2004" promotion focused on hip-hop music and culture, including DJ competitions, interactive CD-ROMs, and special collectible bags, radios, lighters and cigarette packs. Kool MIXX 2004 promotions have appeared in Spin, Vibe, Rolling Stone and Entertianment Weekly, magazines that have high youth readership, and B&W has set up a special "House of Menthol" internet website and toll-free telephone number. They have also distributed in excess of 1.7 million CD-ROMs nationwide.

Spitzer's motion asserts that the promotional campaign violates several provisions of the MSA, including the prohibition against: (a) cigarette marketing that targets youth; (b) use of brand name merchandise; (c) payments to place tobacco products in media; and (d) limitations on brand name sponsorships.

"Brown & Williamson's campaign is a shameless attempt to market Kool cigarettes to children and teenagers, particularly African American youth," Spitzer said. "Hip-hop music is youth-driven. By targeting this music genre and culture - through CDs, advertising and other promotions - Brown and Williamson clearly violates the terms of the MSA for their own profit."

New York's action is the most recent step in a coordinated multi-state effort to stop B&W from marketing its cigarettes to youth. During the past three months, Attorney General Spitzer, Maine Attorney General G. Steven Rowe and Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, acting on behalf of 35 other states and jurisdictions, have written to B&W asking the company to terminate the "Kool MIXX" promotion. While B&W has agreed to stop distributing the special packs and merchandise, they are moving forward with the national DJ and MC competitions, culminating in a final competition to be held on July 24th in Chicago, which will be broadcast live on the "House of Menthol" website.

"The tobacco companies have shown themselves to be absolutely shameless and reckless in their desire to generate even greater profits regardless of the cost to society," said Senate Democratic Leader David Patterson. "We are indeed fortunate to have Attorney General Spitzer keeping an eye on big tobacco, and watching out for our interests."

"It is absolutely offensive that Brown & Williamson is targeting African American youth in these promotional efforts, and I am very pleased that Attorney General Spitzer is moving to stop them," said Councilman Bill Perkins. "Tobacco use and tobacco-related illnesses already are disproportionately high in communities of color, and this attempt to get more of our children and teenagers hooked on smoking is unconscionable."

"The world understands Harlem as the center of African American culture. Unfortunately, we also have the highest smoking rates in the nation. If the Harlem community allows campaigns like Kool Mixx to exist, we are sending the message that negative corporate elements can exploit not just Black culture, but youth and hip hop culture as well. Brown and Williamson's Kool Mixx hip hop campaign is irresponsible, and is not welcome in Harlem," said Chair of the Harlem Tobacco Community Action Board Courtney A. Bennett.

Attorney General Spitzer is seeking an injunction prohibiting Brown & Williamson from: (1) advertising or promoting the Kool MIXX 2004 DJ competition in New York State; (2) distributing the CD-ROM, radios, collectible bags, lighters and special edition cigarette packs in New York; (3) holding five regional DJ competitions currently scheduled between June 18 and July 26 in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and (4) broadcasting live on the Internet the final DJ competition scheduled for July 24 in Chicago. In addition, Spitzer is asking the court to require B&W to place anti-smoking advertisements in Spin, Vibe, Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly, and to pay at least $15 million in penalties.

"B&W agreed not to engage in this type of marketing when they signed the MSA, and that agreement was made part of a court order. Every teenager who becomes a smoker because they are attracted by the Kool MIXX advertising campaign is likely to be faced with a lifetime of addiction and disease, and it is essential that we move aggressively and severely punish these egregious actions, Spitzer said."

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Christine Morrison and Joy Feigenbaum of the Consumer Frauds Bureau, under the direction of Bureau Chief Thomas Conway.