Fla. pact triggers tobacco ad curbs

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The state of Florida today settled its tobacco case for $11.3 billion and for the first time ever got tobacco marketers to immediately pull a major chunk of their advertising.

Court challenges or the need for congressional action up to now have delayed any major ad restrictions proposed in Food & Drug Administration rules and a national agreement with attorneys general from taking effect.

Florida, however, got tobacco marketers to immediately pull up to 50 outdoor signs within 1,000 feet of a school or playground and to pull other outdoor boards anywhere in the state within five months. Signs in sports arenas and on public transit also will be removed, though the pact exempts sponsorship signs, most signage at car race tracks and signs on the outside of stores.

In addition tobacco marketers will pay the state a $1 billion downpayment, with $200 million funding an intensive anti-smoking multimedia campaign. The 8-month-old Florida Department of Health, which has no ad agency, is expected to coordinate the effort and under the agreement it would get the right to take over any of the tobacco company outdoor signs it wants.

The ad restrictions and the anti-smoking campaign also will immediately extend to Mississippi. That state's earlier settlement gives it any improvements negotiated by other states.

Florida's advertising restrictions are still far less than those negotiated as part of a national settlement by attorneys general. In that deal, tobacco companies agreed to remove any outdoor signage, restrict print ads and to limit marketing programs. Those restrictions only take effect if Congress ratifies the agreement. Similar though slightly less tough restrictions proposed by the FDA and largely overturned by a U.S. District Court judge are now being appealed.

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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