Russ Herman, a New Orleans lawyer who in the talks represents attorneys suing tobacco companies in smokers' class-action suits, told Advertising Age that reports of a $200 billion to $300 billion settlement are wrong.
"The only thing we have discussed is how to stop teen-age smoking," Mr. Herman said, who spoke only because he was angered by disclosure of the talks. He added that discussions so far have been preliminary.
He declined to disclose details about the potential advertising restrictions, but said they go well beyond those in new Food & Drug Administration rules.
OUTDOOR BAN OFFERED
Tobacco marketers re-portedly have offered to ban outdoor boards; adopt restrictions now in place in other countries about the use of people in ads; and stop using mascots and cartoon characters.
While neither Mr. Herman nor others involved would confirm this, tobacco marketers apparently hope to trade the ad-content restrictions and outdoor ban for dropping the FDA's requirement that advertising in publications with either 15% readership by those under age 18 or more than 2 million underage readers be limited to b&w text.
Not clear is whether the trade-off would also affect similar FDA regulations on point-of-purchase sales material.
Matthew Myers, a lawyer for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, is participating in the talks, rep-resenting some health groups. A number of health groups not affiliated with Mr. Myers apparently were unaware of his involvement, and are now speaking out against a settlement.
LUNG ASSN. OPPOSES DEAL
Last week, the American Lung Association wrote state attorneys general expressing its opposition to any attempt to settle.
"Tobacco industry officials have known for more than 30 years that the use of their products leads to disease and death. Now is not the time to bail them out," said John Garrison, managing director.
Congressional leaders also expressed less than strong support for the talks or the legislation that would be needed to settle the issues.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) joined several colleagues last week in urging the Clinton administration to "hold firm" against any settlement without substantial damages.
"We are at a critical juncture . . . and should not allow the tobacco industry to use a global settlement to turn the tide against necessary protections to the public," he said.
The outdoor ad industry counts tobacco marketers as the medium's No. 2 advertiser, accounting for 8% to 10% of its $2 billion in ad volume.
"If we have to replace the category, I hope we get some time to do it," said Nancy Fletcher, president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
"We've been preparing ourselves for a number of years," said Karl Eller, chairman-CEO of Eller Media Co., the second-largest outdoor-ad company. "We're not surprised or worried, and it will give the opportunity to many other advertisers for new inventory."
He added: "We'll hate to lose the business, but I'm not so sure we'll lose it."
On April 23, U.S. District Judge William Osteen in North Carolina is expected to hand down his decision on a challenge to the FDA rules. The tobacco and ad industries are asking for a summary judgment.