The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington all filed lawsuits on Tuesday alleging the company, the nation's second-largest tobacco distributor, violated a 1998 pact. The agreement, signed by the tobacco industry collectively, promises not to use cartoons in advertising.
The 1998 pledge, detailed in the "Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement," came about under pressure from state legislatures and attorneys general who said the tobacco companies used cartoons in advertising to appeal to children.
The images at issue appeared in a nine-page branded spread for Camel cigarettes, which touted the brand's support of indie rock music. The case brings to a head all the legal issues attendant on "advertorial" content, with RJ Reynolds' lawyers claiming the content is editorial and the attorneys general saying it's advertising.
The attorneys general want $100 for every print copy distributed in their states and $100 for every visit to RJ Reynolds' branded Web site tied to the promotion. They also want the images removed from the Web.
RJ Reynolds said last week it was pulling out of magazines entirely in 2008. The move, perhaps intended to head off the current lawsuit, was criticized by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a prominent tobacco opponent, as "a day late and a dollar short."