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For Immediate Release
December 13, 2005
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CURRAN CONDEMNS TOBACCO COMPANY
PROMOTION THAT ENCOURAGES BINGE DRINKING

R.J. Reynolds Mailing Touts Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today again called upon R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to immediately cancel a cigarette promotion that encourages binge drinking by young adults. The demand was made in a letter to R.J. Reynolds CEO Susan Ivey, which Curran sent jointly with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

“This ill-conceived promotion – mailed to a Maryland college student on his 22nd birthday – simply needs to end now,” said Attorney General Curran. “We have long fought against R.J. Reynolds to limit the harm caused by its deadly tobacco products. Now R.J. Reynolds is also encouraging young adults to misuse a second addictive product – alcohol – and to do so in a way that will result in an increase in binge drinking and its adverse health consequences.”

The advertising campaign involves Camel brand cigarettes, which is the second-most popular cigarette with teens and young adults. R.J. Reynolds mails an envelope to individuals on their birthday which reads: “Camel - It’s your Birthday. Drinks on us.” Inside the envelope are six different drink coasters, each with a recipe for mixed drinks with high alcohol content and tag lines that promote excessive and irresponsible drinking such as, “LAYER IT ON. GO ‘TIL DAYBREAK,” “MIX THREE SHOTS TOGETHER OVER ICE, THEN MAKE SURE YOU’RE SITTIN’,”and “POUR OVER ICE, THEN LET IT BURN.” R.J. Reynolds says that the mailings are sent to individuals over 21 years old on their birthdays.

Attorneys General Curran, Spitzer, and Lockyer initially wrote to Reynolds in November, demanding that the company discontinue the program because of the grave public health concerns raised by this promotion of excessive drinking, particularly among young adults. The letter also cited significant scientific research showing that the combined use of cigarettes and alcohol presents health risks over and above the risks posed by smoking alone.

"Binge drinking is a major public health issue nationwide, especially on college campuses, which makes this campaign even more appalling," said J. Edward Hill, President of the American Medical Association. "Research shows the adverse health impacts of smoking and alcohol are increased when these two addictive products are used together."

“R.J. Reynolds has set a new low even for a tobacco company with its latest marketing campaign. By linking smoking and alcohol, this campaign blatantly encourages young people to start abusing alcohol as well as to smoke," said Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. "We are appalled that Reynolds is trying to increase its cigarette sales by promoting alcohol abuse by young adults. If anyone needed further evidence that R.J.Reynolds has not changed since the Master Settlement Agreement, this latest marketing campaign should provide absolute proof."


The drink coasters specifically mention well-known brands of alcohol, including Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, Finlandia Vodka, Kahlua, Bacardi Limon, and Baileys. The Attorneys General also wrote to the four major distillers who produce those products, to determine whether they were participating in the advertising campaign.

All four distillers indicated that they previously were not aware of the promotion. Moreover, the distillers noted that the promotion would violate the alcohol industry’s advertising code, which specifically prohibits marketing practices that encourage excessive drinking, promote the intoxicating effects of alcohol consumption, or urge individuals to drink as a rite of passage into adulthood. The distillers have all written to Reynolds, asserting that Reynolds has violated their trademark rights and demanding that Reynolds “cease and desist” the promotional campaign, or face potential litigation. Reynolds has refused those requests.

Curran, Spitzer, and Lockyer wrote to Reynolds again today, expressing their outrage and disappointment with Reynolds’ refusal to discontinue this irresponsible promotion. The letter states that Reynolds “is promoting unsafe alcohol consumption” and asserts that Reynolds’ “disregard for public health as demonstrated in this marketing campaign is unconscionable.”

According to 2002 study commissioned by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Task Force on College Drinking, drinking by college students, ages 18 to 24, contributes to an estimated 1,400 student deaths, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assaults or date rapes each year. Moreover, a November 2005 report issued by a traffic safety advisory group and the National Safety Council listed Maryland as ninth among the “Fatal Fifteen” states or territories where 41 percent or more of traffic fatalities last year were alcohol related. Nearly 45 percent of Maryland’s traffic fatalities involved alcohol consumption. The national average was 39 percent.

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