Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Lungs

Tobacco Companies Suing Massachusetts

BOSTON (AP) -- Two tobacco companies filed federal lawsuits today challenging a first-in-the-nation attempt by the Massachusetts attorney general to restrict tobacco advertising.

Bill Porter, an assistant attorney general, said lawsuits were filed by Philip Morris Cos. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., claiming that the restrictions on cigarette advertising violated the First Amendment and were pre-empted by federal law.

Additionally, Porter said he had been told by an industry attorney that lawsuits were forthcoming from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the other two largest cigarette makers in the nation.

"The attorney general intends vigorously to defend these cases and is firmly of the view that these regulations are lawful," Porter said.

The two provisions of the regulations being challenged by Philip Morris would ban outdoor advertising of tobacco products near schools and playgrounds and ban advertising for tobacco products near schools inside retail stores if they're visible from outside. The regulations are to go into effect in August.

Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick said the company challenged sections of the consumer regulations "which we feel unduly restrict our right to market our products to adults who choose to smoke."

McCormick insisted that Philip Morris wanted to combat youth smoking.

"The issue of youth smoking is one where we're all on the same page. Philip Morris stands willing to work with anyone who shares the goal of reducing the incidence of youth smoking," he said.

A message left for Lorillard attorney Richard Zielinski wasn't returned.

Massachusetts was one of 46 states that reached a settlement with tobacco companies to resolve claims for the costs of treating sick smokers.

Source: Martin Finucane, AP, Friday, May 21, 1999; 9:17 p.m. EDT


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