States Hope to Hear on Tobacco Ad Changes
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Top state attorneys general could hear sometime Thursday whether two or more major tobacco companies plan to follow Philip Morris Cos Inc.'s lead and pull cigarette ads out of magazines with high youth readership.
Christine Gregoire, outgoing president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), told Reuters tobacco companies were asked to submit proposed advertising policy changes to NAAG by the time the group began its summer meeting here this week.
A NAAG committee is investigating whether tobacco companies have violated terms of their historic 1998 settlement with the states. The companies agreed to stop marketing to teens and to pay the states more than $240 billion to resolve litigation aimed at recouping Medicaid money spent on sick smokers.
Under pressure from the attorneys general, Philip Morris decided earlier this month to drop advertising in more than 40 magazines -- from Glamour to TV Guide -- with substantial percentages of readers under age 18.
If tobacco companies do not make changes, the attorneys general could asks state courts to find the companies in contempt of the settlement. But Gregoire, Washington State attorney general and a key negotiator of the pact, said the group hopes to achieve change without renewed litigation.
Philip Morris said it would end advertising in magazines with a 15 percent readership of teens 18 years old and younger or if a magazine is read by two million readers 18 or younger.
Attorneys general are hoping similar changes in advertising policy will be adopted by Brown & Williamson, a unit of British American Tobacco Plc, Lorillard Tobacco Co., a unit of Loews Corp. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. a unit of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc.
Reynolds has previously said it would not alter its advertising plans. Earlier this month, Reynolds had released a statement saying it advertises in magazines in which at least two-thirds of readers are 18 are older and with editorial content aimed at adults. It said that changing its advertising policies would have no bearing on youth smoking.
Gregoire, who leaves office as NAAG president on Thursday, said NAAG is investigating not only where cigarette ads are placed, but also the content of those ads -- for instance, whether cigarette ads use cartoon characters that might appeal to children.
Gregoire said the states are investigating at least one tobacco company for the types of ads it is running but she would not identify the manufacturer.