Legacy Scores Legal Victory

WASHINGTON A Delaware judge has ruled that the American Legacy Foundation’s “Truth” anti-smoking effort does not vilify the tobacco industry, and therefore does not violate the Master Settlement Agreement between Big Tobacco and 46 states, the document that created Legacy and provided the campaign with its initial funding.

“None of the ads subject the [tobacco] employees to the type of contemptuous language contained in other case law discussing vilification,” the judge said. “There are no scurrilous or vitriolic attacks. There is no cruel slander. There is no social ostracism.”

In the suit, Lorillard had argued that Legacy breached its contract under the MSA, which states that the group cannot vilify tobacco companies in its ads. Lorillard officials did not immediately return calls.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, who also serves as chairman of Legacy’s board of directors, said the decision would allow the foundation to continue producing hard-hitting ads to convince teens not to smoke.

“We have known right along that the ‘Truth’ campaign is true, that it works, and now we know, thanks to yesterday’s decision, that it is legal,” Sorrell said.

As a result of the decision, Legacy president and CEO Cheryl Healton said her group has no plans to change the marketing strategy behind its campaign or any of its ads. “We will continue to be as edgy as we have been,” she said.

Legacy officials hope the decision will help the foundation garner at least $10 billion over five years to continue the “Truth” campaign from the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against several tobacco companies.

The government has already proposed that should the defendents in the case—which include Philip Morris and its parent company Altria; R.J. Reynolds; Brown & Williamson; Lorillard; British American Tobacco; and Liggett—be found guilty of civil racketeering fraud, a group such as Legacy should be the recipient of any funds [Adweek, June 20].

Havas’ Arnold in Boston, MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami and Omnicom Group’s GSD&M in Austin, Texas, are Legacy’s principal ad agencies.