Debate and Issues Archive

draft settlement

MSA Violation or Just Another Loophole?

  EDITORIAL: R.J. Reynolds' Offensive Act
  Arizona Daily Star
  Dec 10, 1999

State Attorney General Janet Napolitano was probably as shocked as the rest of us to learn that R.J. Reynolds was mailing free cigarettes to residents of the state.

Why the sleaze coming from Big Tobacco still has the ability to surprise is a mystery. But this obscene gesture offended on two fronts. It not only reached vulnerable populations, it could torpedo the state's agreement with the company - a legal settlement worth $3.1 billion over the next 25 years.

Napolitano is responding with proper indignation to an act that she rightly believes targets children. News accounts told the story of children who played with the cigarettes after retrieving the mail. Other recipients included former smokers who quit because their health demanded it.

And Napolitano had the same thought as the rest of us when she read the literature accompanying the cigarettes. Two and four packs of cigarettes were introduced with a survey that suggested recipients "smoke enough of the cigarettes to form an opinion."

Napolitano said the cigarette company probably meant "to form an addiction."

R.J. Reynolds' defense is that it mailed only to people who signed requests from the company. But one of the complainers said he never signed such a request. We're with Napolitano on this one. She says that at the very least, the mailings violate the spirit of the agreement.

For those who don't remember, one of the agreement's provisions limits free samples to adults-only facilities or consumer tests with people who certify they are adults.

Napolitano is threatening to take the matter to court to stop the company from distributing free cigarettes. We couldn't agree with her more.