Tobacco Firm Seeks to Stop U.S. Anti-Smoking Ads
The maker of the "truth" ad campaign, which was funded by a 1998 settlement between the tobacco industry and 48 states, called Lorillard's move "unwarranted and outrageous."
Lorillard is creating "a smoke screen to hide the company's real goal, which is to crush the 'truth' campaign because it's working to stop kids from smoking," said American Legacy Foundation President Dr. Cheryl Healton.
Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard, a unit of Loews Corp. (LTR), said it has notified the foundation, as required by the tobacco settlement, that it intends in 30 days to ask a state judge, in a location not yet announced, to put an end to the campaign unless the foundation changes its tune.
The company said it notified the foundation of its intent last Friday.
The campaign, featuring print, radio, television and Internet advertisements, has included television ads depicting body bags symbolizing people who have died from smoking.
Part of the massive tobacco settlement with the states was devoted to funding advertising campaigns intended to combat youth smoking.
Lorillard spokesman Steve Watson said the foundation is violating provisions in the settlement forbidding advertising that personally attacks any employees of a tobacco company or vilifies companies themselves.
"They have continuously shown a pattern of vilification, and most recently have specifically attacked Lorillard with a radio ad which suggested that we put dog urine in our cigarettes," Watson told Reuters.
"We do not put dog urine or have we ever put dog urine in our cigarettes."
The settlement provides the American Legacy Foundation with about $300 million per year, according to foundation spokesman Bill Furmanski. He said the foundation has budgeted about $94 million for the "truth" campaign during its current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
Healton said her foundation does not engage in personal attacks or vilification.
"Anyone who has seen 'truth' ads knows the educate young people about the addictiveness, health effects and social costs if tobacco, which is exactly what the MSA (master settlement agreement) says they must do," she said.
The foundation said the ads "are edgy and use irreverent humor because that's the best way to capture and hold the attention of teens."
But in its letter, which the foundation released on Tuesday, Lorillard said "the message of the 'truth' campaign has consistently strayed far afield from the facts concerning tobacco products and their effect on users."
"We think the ALF pattern of advertising clearly goes beyond the bounds of ethical and educational advertising," Watson said. "However, we support the mission of the American Legacy Foundation, which under the MSA states it to be part of the nationwide effort to reduce youth smoking by educating parents and kids about the health risks associated with smoking."