December 5th, 2007

Suit Over Tobacco Ad In Rolling Stone

By Mark Peters
Hartford Courant

The battle over cigarettes, teenagers and rock and roll has a new flare-up in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine.

Connecticut filed a lawsuit Tuesday against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. over its advertising spread in the 40th anniversary issue of the music magazine, one of eight states taking legal action against the tobacco giant over the ad.

“RJR is blatantly violating its own commitment to stop such slick pitches using cartoon characters and logos,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.

The Rolling Stone advertising spread, the attorney general said, is the latest example of the tobacco giant testing an agreement reached in 1998 on the marketing of tobacco products to youth. Blumenthal is seeking a court order to make R.J. Reynolds comply with the settlement as well as civil penalties and payments for ads and other anti-smoking programs to counteract the Rolling Stone campaign.

David Howard, a spokesman for RJ Reynolds, said the ad in Rolling Stone does not violate the agreement. He said the states have violated the deal by filing the lawsuit. The agreement requires 30 days notice before taking action in court, which did not happen in this case, he said.

In addition, the tobacco company has been in conversations with the National Association of Attorneys General over the Rolling Stone ad, because the material in question was part of Rolling Stone’s editorial content and not the RJ Reynolds ad, according to a recent letter from the company to the association.

“I assure you we were surprised and concerned when the issue was published,” the company wrote in the letter.

Blumenthal said he was aware of Reynolds’ claims that the cartoons connected with the ad were not part of the ad itself—but rejected that claim.

“RJR is again attempting to circumvent its obligations...by claiming it bears no responsibility for the content of an enormous multi-page advertisement for its flagship Camel brand,” Blumenthal charged in a prepared statement.

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