Lorillard Tobacco has warned anti-smoking body the American Legacy Foundation that it will initiate court proceedings against ads it claims portray tobacco manufacturers as “deceitful” and “unscrupulous”.

The ALF was established as part of the settlement between the tobacco industry and 46 state attorneys general in 1998, and spends $116 million (supplied by manufacturers) on anti-smoking ads a year.

The settlement forbids the ALF from running advertising that vilifies tobacco corporations; this, however, is exactly what Lorillard believes the body’s Truth campaign has done. Last week the manufacturer sent a notice of intent – as it is obliged to under the settlement – saying it will initiate a lawsuit.

“The message of the Truth campaign has consistently strayed far afield from the facts concerning tobacco products and their effects on users,” read a letter to the ALF from Ronald S Milstein, vp, general counsel and secretary at Lorillard. “Rather than focus on the products themselves, in large part the message of the Truth campaign is [that] the participating manufacturers and their executives are dishonest, deceitful, callous, malicious or otherwise unscrupulous.”

In addition to the Truth effort – created by Arnold Worldwide in Boston and Miami’s Crispin Porter Bogusky – Lorillard is particularly annoyed by a radio spot broadcast last summer, which featured a phone call to one of the tobacco firm’s employees.

However, Lorillard’s arguments cut no ice with ALF president/ceo Dr Cheryl Hinton. Branding the letter “a smokescreen to strike [at] the Truth campaign,” she fumed: “Lorillard has made an unwarranted attack. The Truth campaign has not engaged in vilification of Lorillard or anyone else. The core assumption is we have to be risk-taking and edgy. This is education, not vilification.”

Lorillard’s vp-external affairs Steve Watson insisted the tobacco company does not want the ALF to stop advertising, just to address the alleged abuse of the settlement. He added that Lorillard had not told other tobacco manufacturers before sending the notice of intent.

News source: AdAge.com