Tobacco settlement reached

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Ad restrictions that would be the most severe ever imposed on legal American products would be accepted by the tobacco industry under a $360 billion settlement announced Friday. The agreement must still be approved by Congress where passage is uncertain.

The restrictions would include a ban on Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man, as well as all outdoor advertising for tobacco. The deal also bars sponsorships under brand names and promotional programs.

"This is the most historic public health achievement in history," said Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore.

The settlement would enact into law the new Food & Drug Administration regulations aimed at marketing to children, but goes beyond those regulations. The partial text of a summary of the new marketing-related portions of the settlement, released by state attorneys general, follows:

  • Youth marketing: The use of people, human images and cartoon characters in tobacco advertising would be banned, as would all outdoor and Internet advertising, and tobacco product placement in movies and on TV.

  • Youth access; Vending machines, except in bars, and self-service displays would be banned, tobacco products would be positioned out of consumers' reach and away from children's products, and a nationwide licensing system for all sellers of tobacco products would be established.

  • Enforcement:Under-age tobacco use must drop by 42% in five years, 58% in 7 years and 67% in 10 years, or the industry would face penalties of up to $2 billion annually. The tobacco industry would fund all enforcement efforts, with dual authority vested in both the FDA and state attorneys general.

  • Regulation: The agreement formally:

    Recognizes FDA has regulatory authority over tobacco products, including the authority to reduce the levels of nicotine and eventually eliminate nicotine if appropriate;

    Requires FDA approval of all ingredients in tobacco products and standards for reducing harmful components, including nicotine;

    Requires ingredient testing and safety assessments with full disclosure by brand;

    Requires the tobacco industry to provide the FDA with all research it conducts; and imposes penalties for any violations that are 10 times those facing other FDA-regulated companies.

  • New warning labels: There would be nine new warning labels for cigarettes and four for smokeless tobacco products, with full FDA authority to change labels without an act of Congress. The new labels would be placed on the front and top of packages, covering 25% of the package front, with white lettering against a black background.

  • Disclosure: The tobacco companies will issue a statement acknowledging the dangers of tobacco. Cigarettes will be subject to the same public ingredient disclosure as exists in food products.

  • Second-hand smoke: Tobacco use in public places (those visited by 10 or more people daily), workplaces and fast food restaurants would be prohibited, except for areas that are separately vented and through which non-smokers need not pass.

  • Anti-smoking efforts: The most massive and comprehensive public education and counter-marketing campaign in history would be waged, funded by the tobacco industry, but without any industry input into the message's content or placement. Industry would also fund state and local tobacco control programs, as well as access to tobacco cessation programs for all smokers who want to quit and cannot afford to do so.

  • Industry transformation: The agreement changes the way the tobacco industry does business. It dissolves all trade associations such as the Council for Tobacco Research and Tobacco Institute. It also requires companies to adopt corporate principles making clear their commitment to reduce children's tobacco use and develop safer products, with detailed plans to ensure compliance, and stiff fines for failure to meet objectives.

    "Say goodbye to Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man," said New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco. "Say goodbye to tobacco billboards and cigarette vending machines."

    Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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