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Lawyers Try to Restore Cigarette Ad Lawsuit

September 22, 2004|From Associated Press

The once-popular "Joe Camel" campaign was strategically designed to recruit underage smokers, attorneys trying to revive a class-action lawsuit argued in court Tuesday.

Lawyers representing Californians who began smoking as teens also argued Monday that tobacco companies should not be allowed to use the 1st Amendment to illegally market cigarettes to children, and asked the 4th District Court of Appeal to revive the class-action suit dismissed in 2002 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Prager.

Plaintiffs lawyer David Markham acknowledged that the Joe Camel campaign of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. might have appealed to some smokers of legal age, but he argued that such advertisements should not be allowed because they also widely appeal to children who cannot legally smoke.

Representing the tobacco companies, lawyer Daniel Collins argued that Prager correctly interpreted prior court decisions to find that such ads were protected speech. He noted that alcohol companies have been allowed to advertise widely in states in which some counties ban liquor.

The original lawsuit, filed in 1998, named Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. It sought to have the companies forfeit $700 million to $2 billion believed to have been earned from sales to an estimated 1.5 million teen smokers in California between 1994 and 1999.

A ruling by the three-member panel is expected within 90 days.

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