December 13, 2005
CURRAN CONDEMNS TOBACCO COMPANY
PROMOTION THAT ENCOURAGES BINGE DRINKING
R.J. Reynolds Mailing Touts Excessive Alcohol Consumption
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.”
advertising campaign involves Camel brand cigarettes, which is
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
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.
Spitzer, and Lockyer wrote to Reynolds again today, expressing
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.”
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.