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Chicago AG vs. R.J. Reynolds

This morning in Chicago eight state attorneys general announced they were filing a motion against R.J. Reynolds for violating the 1998 tobacco settlement by illegally marketing cigarettes to youth. The ad in question appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

But it's unclear just who's responsible for the content. The nine page ad foldout starts and ends with Camel cigarette ads that show support for independent rock labels. Sandwiched in-between the smoking ads is a cartoon fold out that promotes independent rock. The attorneys general say that's the problem - cartoons are for kids and shouldn't have anything to do with cigarette ads. R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard says while the company provided the bookends, they did not see or approve the inside cartoon pages. Howard says, "Rolling Stone came to us and said we're doing a special feature on indie rock and we said we have a Camel promo that is tied to indie rock."

The spokesperson for Rolling Stone, Beth Jacobson agrees with RJR. She says the tobacco company "never had input or approval of that." When asked if there were any discussions as to what kind of content would be appropriate next to a tobacco ad, Jacobson replied, "not to my knowledge."

When the ad was revealed in mid-November it was quickly met with outrage from anti-tobacco advocates. Days later, R.J. Reynolds announced it would voluntarily pull all print advertising for 2008. But RJR spokesman Howard says the decision to cancel print ads was unrelated to the Rolling Stone issue noting that the attorneys general were notified in October that print ads would be pulled.

Regardless of RJR's future marketing plans, the attorneys general of Illinois, California, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington say the Rolling Stone ad "uses cartoon characters to promote Camel cigarettes." And Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids adds, "If R.J. Reynolds and Rolling Stone are allowed to get away with this type of advertising it will undermine the tobacco settlement's entire ban on these cartoon characters."

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