Judge, Citing Reservations, Backs Anti-Tobacco Ads A Delaware judge has ruled that an edgy set of anti-smoking ads aimed at young people does not cross the line of vilifying tobacco companies or their employees. A Lorillard Tobacco Co. official said the company would appeal the ruling.
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Judge, Citing Reservations, Backs Anti-Tobacco Ads

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Judge, Citing Reservations, Backs Anti-Tobacco Ads

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Judge, Citing Reservations, Backs Anti-Tobacco Ads

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

A judge in Delaware has ruled on an edgy set of anti-smoking ads aimed at young people. He said the ads do not cross the line of vilifying tobacco companies or their employees. But in a couple of instances, he said, they cut it close. NPR's Libby Lewis reports.

LIBBY LEWIS reporting:

The anti-smoking ads were financed by cigarette-makers as part of an historic 1998 legal settlement with 46 states. The series is called the truth campaign. The sponsor is the American Legacy Foundation. And the ads are aggressive. One radio ad takes its theme from an industry statement that tobacco naturally contains urea; that ingredient is also found in dog urine. The ad portrays a professional dog walker calling the Lorillard Tobacco Company and offering a business idea.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Man: And my dogs--well, they pee a lot, usually on, like, fire hydrants and people's flower beds. I thought that's a total waste of quality dog urine, and why not collect it and sell it to you tobacco people?

Unidentified Woman: Hmm.

Unidentified Man: Well, see, dog pee is full of urea, and that's one of the chemicals in cigarettes, and I was just hoping to make a little extra spending cash.

LEWIS: That ad prompted Lorillard to sue, saying the ads vilify the tobacco industry and so violated the terms of the settlement agreement with the states. The judge, Vice Chancellor Stephen Lam of Delaware's Court of Chancery, disagreed. He said none of the messages vilified the industry. Lam did say that by naming Lorillard specifically, the dog walker ad might have violated the agreement's bar against personal attacks. But he said Lorillard didn't make that specific argument, so he couldn't rule on that point. The judge said another ad had played it close to the edge but didn't cross the line. Ronald Milstein, senior vice president and general counsel of Lorillard, said the company plans to appeal.

Mr. RONALD MILSTEIN (Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Lorillard Tobacco Company): What we were trying to do here was to bring some accountability, make them play by the rules, as we have to play by the rules under the NSA. It was a question of principle and fairness.

LEWIS: In the meantime, the American Legacy Foundation says it will continue with its aggressive ad campaign, one that public health experts say has made a real dent in youth smoking. In March of this year the American Journal of Public Health reported that the truth campaign ads accounted for 22 percent of the decline in smoking among young Americans. Libby Lewis, NPR News, Washington.

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