CCAA Supports Attorneys General Ban on Tobacco Billboard Advertising

As part of the negotiated settlement between the State of New Mexico and the tobacco industry this past November, tobacco billboard advertising ended as of April 23, 1999.

No longer will our children be forced to view these product solicitations. No longer will our horizons be obstructed by these messages that encourage unhealthy practices.

Before the Ban

After the Ban

cancer ad

healthy ad

The Attorney General's office released a public statement asking citizens to assist with the enforcement of this ban. The office reported that they do not have the personnel to inspect the hundreds of billboards across the state. Therefore, they provided a toll-free number and asked citizens to report any billboards that not in compliance with this new regulation. As part of the settlement, cigarette makers agreed to take their ads down, not to cancel their leases on the billboards and to substitute health messages until those leases run out. Note: New Mexico did not get any substitute health message. We were told that there were no leases that extended past the April 23rd deadline -- yeah, right...

On Monday, April 26th, CCAA Director, Scott Goold, reported the billboard located at the corner of Montgomery and Eubank here in Albuquerque. The CCAA identified three other locations as well. The sign displayed an advertisement for the Legend brand of cigarettes (see illustration below). Note: As of May 3rd, Giant removed the series of billboard ads throughout Albuquerque. The CCAA responded with a follow-up letter (here).

Giant cigarette ad

Across the country, there are a number of similar violations. A convenience store chain in Philadelphia is promoting tobacco on its own highway billboards.

The billboards for Wawa Food Markets, on Interstate 76 and other major highways, show a bright red pack of Marlboros and read, "$2.19 for limited time only."

As a retailer, the five-state chain says it is not affected by the tobacco settlement. Leading anti-smoking advocates say the billboards run counter to the spirit of the 46-state agreement that asked tobacco companies to stop directing their advertising at youths with images like the Marlboro man and Joe Camel.

"It's not only any cigarette, but the brand of cigarette that is by far used the most by teen-agers," said Jeff Barg, a medical newsletter publisher who heads the anti-smoking group Tobacco Free Education and Action Coalition for Health. "And it is advertising low prices, which would be particularly attractive to kids, who have the least disposable income."

Note: ABC Good Morning America will air a segment Friday morning, May 14th, about the successful campaign to eliminate both the Giant ads and Wawa's 100 Marlboro billboards that violate the AG settlement.

Rally Held Marking Removal of the Second Violation of The Tobacco Settlement
Community and tobacco prevention organizations will be holding a rally on May 13th at 11:00 a.m. to mark the removal of the first [sic: the Philadelphia ad is actually the second] known violation of the multi-state tobacco settlement at the site of a violating billboard on Main Street near Green Lane in Manayunk.

Tobacco prevention organizations have claimed that Wawa Food Markets' latest billboard campaign promoting special low prices for Marlboro cigarettes violates the tobacco settlement. The settlement prevents the large tobacco companies such as Philip Morris from promoting their tobacco products on billboards and from allowing third parties such as Wawa from using their tobacco brands in billboard advertisements.

Wawa has released a written statement saying that it will voluntarily discontinue tobacco billboard advertising because of consumer response and discussions with the Pa. attorney general, but that it is not required to do so by the tobacco settlement.

"We are pleased that Wawa has listened to us and others and now sees the virtue of discontinuing all tobacco billboards," said Jeffrey Barg, chairman of the Tobacco-free Education and Action Coalition for Health (TEACH). "But it is vitally important that Attorney General Fisher and tobacco companies such as Philip Morris make it clear that these sorts of billboards do in fact violate the tobacco settlement and that tobacco companies will use every means at their disposal to prevent this from happening and that Attorney General Fisher will ensure this as well. If Wawa characterizes its decision as purely voluntary, and that characterization is not corrected by the attorney general and the tobacco companies, then this incident could be viewed as giving license to other retailers to run tobacco billboards."

If you find a billboard that is currently not in compliance, please call the New Mexico Attorney General's office, Consumer Protection division, at 1.800.678.1508.