States Sue R.J. Reynolds



HARRISBURG, PA. An illustrated advertising section in Rolling Stone magazine violates the tobacco industry’s nine-year-old promise not to use cartoons to sell cigarettes, state officials charged Tuesday.

At least eight states are filing lawsuits starting Tuesday over the advertising for R.J. Reynolds’ Camel cigarettes in the November edition of Rolling Stone, officials said.

The section combines pages of Camel cigarette ads with pages of magazine-produced illustrations on the theme of independent rock music.

“Their latest nine-page advertising spread in Rolling Stone, filled with cartoons, flies in the face of their pledge to halt all tobacco marketing to children,” Pennsylvania’s attorney general Tom Corbett said in a statement released Tuesday.

Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Connecticut and Washington state are filing lawsuits Tuesday.

California attorney general Jerry Brown confirmed his participation, calling the publication a “rather clever piece of advertising.”

“They agreed not to do these kinds of things ever since Joe Camel,” Brown said. “We have to call them to task.”

David Howard, a rep for Reynolds in Winston-Salem, N.C., did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He told The New York Times last month that there was a clear difference between the Camel ads on the outside pages of the section and the illustrations in the magazine-produced inside fold-out.

Reynolds last week said it would cease print advertising in 2008.

The landmark 1998 settlement between 46 states and the tobacco industry reimburses states for smoking-related health care costs. In an effort to prevent the industry from pitching to minors, the agreement includes a provision against using cartoons in advertisements.

The cigarette ads in Rolling Stone tout “free range rock” and support for independent record labels while using photographic images of people in 1950s dress, farm animals, an old-fashioned tractor and furnishings like a phonograph against a farm backdrop. Those pages fold out to reveal a four-page illustrated spread of an “Indie Rock Universe” with animals, imaginary figures and other drawings.

But Corbett’s office said the states are seeking fines of $100 per magazine distributed within their borders, as well as $100 per hit on the related R.J. Reynolds Web site, http://www.thefarmrocks.com.

Ray Chelstowski, publisher of Rolling Stone, said Reynolds had no idea that the magazine’s pages would be illustrated, as opposed to an article in independent music, and said the Camel ads tout the music Web site, not cigarettes.

“Particularly the fact that what Camel is promoting here is a Web site makes at least some of the accusations seem far-fetched,” Chelstowski said Tuesday.

Other states are reviewing the matter and could join the effort, said Nils Frederiksen a spokesman for Corbett. If every state involved in the 1998 settlement files suit, the fines could exceed $100 million, he said.

The lawsuits also ask for the removal of the images from all Web sites and promotions and a payment by Reynolds equal to the cost of the Rolling Stone advertisement to be used for anti-smoking ads.

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