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Promises Constitutional Challenge to Federal Lawsuit

By Published on .

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Tobacco makers are reacting with skepticism to a Justice Department plan for stricter curbs on tobacco marketing.

The Justice Department's proposals are part of the government's civil lawsuit against major tobacco makers that charges big tobacco with fraud and racketeering. The federal lawsuit was filed by the Clinton administration in 1999.

Tobacco makers said today the laundry list of marketing penalties, which were detailed in a little-noted court filing from December, brings back proposals that had once been sought by the Food and Drug Administration several years ago. The FDA's requests had been stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tougher restrictions
The government

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said it is seeking to eliminate all tobacco point-of-sale ads and trade promotions and sponsorships; restrict advertising to black-and-white print ads only, ban slogans or themes that "might have appeal to youth" and eliminate the use of words "light, ultra light," "low tar" or "mild" that could be viewed as implying reduced health risks.

The Justice Department also is looking to force tobacco makers to exclude from direct mail campaigns any households with children under 18.

Tobacco makers said the measures would need congressional action -- if they could be imposed at all following any challenges on constitutional grounds. In addition to a First Amandment fight, tobacco makers today questioned whether a judge has the authority to impose these kinds of restrictions.

"We do not believe there is a need for additional advertising and marketing restrictions," said a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., a view also taken by Philip Morris Cos.

The case is set to go to trial next year in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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