Ads 'Vilify' Tobacco Industry, Complains Lorillard to Judge

28 April 2006

Ad campaigns run by antismoking group American Legacy Foundation violated an agreement not to attack the tobacco industry or its employees

So claimed the Lorillard Tobacco Company, which on Wednesday presented its case against ALF before Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy J Holland and four colleagues.

Lorillard contends that that "vilification" and "personal attack" against the industry were expressly prohibited when four tobacco companies and 46 state attorneys general signed a $206 billion settlement in 1998. It claims that ALF's campaigns violated this prohibition.

The tobacco giant was appealing a lower court ruling last year that the ALF campaign - which attempted to persuade teenagers not to smoke - was both truthful and effective.

That hearing, in August, before the Delaware Chancery Court, accepted the findings of a five-year ALF study showing that the percentage of teenagers aged eighteeen and below who smoked dropped during the period from 20% to 16%.

Moreover, Vice Chancellor Stephen P Lamb then held that disparagement was not vilification and that television ads describing employees explicitly or implicitly as "liars, greedy executives or authors of embarrassing documents" did not amount to vilification because there was neither "cruel slander" nor "vitriolic attacks."

Lorillard lawyer Jim Phillips asked the Supreme Court to declare that certain advertisements and the money used to produce them violated the settlement and to send the case back to Judge Lamb.

That plea and the evidence submitted to the latest hearing, which lasted only one hour, will be determined by the five-judge panel at a later date, Justice Holland said.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff