Eight States Sue R.J. Reynolds Over Rolling Stone Feature

Was Nine-Page Mag Spread Advertorial or Editorial?

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- R.J. Reynolds may plan to pull its print ads next year, but eight state attorneys general are accusing the company of illegally using cartoons in this year's marketing -- and are seeking millions of dollars in penalties.
The first two pages of the Camel-sponsored section on indie rock that appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of Rolling Stone.
The first two pages of the Camel-sponsored section on indie rock that appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of Rolling Stone.

Advertorial or editorial
In separate lawsuits filed today, the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington cite a nine-page magazine section in the Nov. 15 Rolling Stone sponsored by RJR's Camel on indie rock. The section -- which RJR claims is editorial and the attorneys general claim is advertorial -- included cartoons, which violates an agreement major tobacco makers made with states to settle lawsuits in 1998.

In Illinois, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan also charged that the company used a cartoon film to promote the brand Nov. 21 during a concert at a Chicago nightclub.

In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett called the Rolling Stone ad a "flagrant violation of the 1998 national tobacco settlement, which includes an outright ban on the use of any cartoon in tobacco advertising."

He said if the lawsuit is filed by other attorneys general, RJR could have to pay up to $100 million in sanctions. Pennsylvania is asking for $100 for each instance someone goes to a website mentioned in the ad.

Spread was editorial matter
The attorneys general contend that the Rolling Stone section was advertorial and that all the content was an RJR ad. An RJR spokesman said the section was editorial matter the magazine produced; that the tobacco company knew nothing about it in advance; and that RJR's own ads within the section contain no cartoons.

"Rolling Stone came to us and said 'We have this section on indie rock, would you be interested in sponsoring it?'" said David Howard, a company spokesman. "We were not aware of the editorial content other than it would be on indie rock, and having advertised with Rolling Stone before, we had no reason to believe this would be any different. Had we been aware it was going to feature [cartoons], we would not have advertised."

Wenner Media, the publisher of Rolling Stone, declined to comment today.

Mr. Howard also contended the state attorneys general suits violate the settlement agreement, which requires 30-day notice of any enforcement issues.
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