The largest smokeless tobacco company is violating a 1998 legal settlement by targeting children in its ads, lawmakers who cited a study by Massachusetts health officials said.
U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. spent $9.4 million last year on advertising in magazines that have substantial numbers of young readers, up from $3.6 million in 1997, according to the report by the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program.
"These results are troubling and indicate to us that UST is not in compliance with the agreement it signed with the state attorneys general," Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a letter to the National Assn. of Attorneys General. UST Inc. is the holding company for U.S. Smokeless Tobacco.
The lawmakers urged the attorneys general to take legal action against the Greenwich, Conn., company.
Richard Verheij, the company's general counsel, said he was confident the manufacturer had not violated the 1998 agreement. "We're very comfortable with the publications that we selected," Verheij said.
UST shares closed up 83 cents at $38.60 on the NYSE.