R J Reynolds Wins Case as Lorillard Sues Over Dog Urine Row

17 September 2002

A class-action lawsuit against R J Reynolds over advertising to minors has been dismissed after the judge ruled that marketing is protected by the First Amendment.

The suit was filed by Devin Daniels on behalf of all Californians who, between April 1994 and December 1999, saw a cigarette ad when aged under 18 and smoked.

However, Judge Ronald Prager argued that Reynolds’ advertising had been “neither deceptive nor related to an unlawful activity.”

He added that individual states “cannot seek to impose regulations on tobacco advertising and promotion in an effort to protect youth from exposure to such advertising,” since the power to do so has already been handed to the Federal Trade Commission.

The news was welcomed by Reynolds, though the company’s reaction to Judge Prager’s decisions has not always been so warm – earlier this year he slapped a $20 million (€20.6m; £13m) fine on the tobacco firm after ruling that by targeting youth it had violated the 1998 master settlement agreement with the attorneys general of forty-six states.

Although this latest case was dismissed, there is no shortage of tobacco-related litigation to keep the courts busy.

In a separate suit, Lorillard Tobacco is taking legal action against the National Association of Attorneys General over an ad campaign by the American Legacy Foundation, an organisation created under the master settlement agreement.

Earlier this year, Lorillard sued the ALF, claiming its Truth campaign, created by Arnold Worldwide in Boston, breached a pact not to vilify tobacco companies. Particularly galling for the firm was a radio ad in which one of its employees was phoned and asked if he would like to purchase some dog urine to supply the urea for cigarettes.

After the ALF launched a counter-action (claiming it couldn’t be sued as it wasn’t part of the original agreement), Lorillard has decided to take the attorneys general to court, accusing them of failing in their “fiduciary duty” to oversee the actions of the ALF.

Data sourced from: AdWeek.com; additional content by WARC staff