States to Sue Brown & Williamson Over Kool Campaign

More than 25 states plan to file a lawsuit against Brown & Williamson Tobacco for trying to target young people by using images that “appeal to youth” in its latest Kool cigarette marketing campaign, the Associated Press reported May 10.

The packs of Kool cigarettes feature rappers, disc jockeys, and dancers, all of which, state officials say, appeal to youth. “The flair of this promotion definitely has an appeal to an audience that is younger than 21 or younger than 18,” said Sherri Watson Hyde, who heads the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.

Under the 1998 nationwide tobacco settlement with U.S. states, tobacco companies, among them Brown & Williamson, agreed not to target teens through advertising or marketing campaigns.

The agreement also required states to give tobacco companies one month’s prior notice before filing a lawsuit. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sent the notification to the Kentucky tobacco company. The letter was sent on behalf of his state as well as Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.

Brown & Williamson denied that its Kool campaign is an attempt to attract underage smokers. “We’re going for adults, and adults for us start at 21,” said company spokesman Mark Smith.

Last month, the tobacco company agreed to stop distributing free promotional CD-ROMs, displaying hip-hop characters on Kool cigarette packs, and publishing some magazine ads.