New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is applauding the court decision severely limiting Brown & Williamson's "Kool MIXX" advertising campaign targeting children.
"Today's decision makes clear that the court will take appropriate steps to prevent tobacco companies targeting youth in their marketing campaigns," Spitzer said. "Although this is a preliminary order, the evidence presented in our lawsuit amply demonstrates that B&W has committed hundreds of violations of the Master Settlement Agreement signed by the company in 1998."
At the request of Spitzer's office, New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Ramos issued a restraining order that:
• Prohibits the distribution of Kool MIXX brand name merchandise such as CD-ROMs, bags, radios and lighters;
• Requires B&W to shut down its "House of Menthol" website and toll-free telephone number;
• Prohibits the live webcast of a DJ competition to be held in Chicago in July;
• Severely limit advertising for planned DJ competitions to be held in New York City during the next four weeks; and
• Requires Brown and Williamson to recall all special edition Kool MIXX cigarette packs in New York. More than 79,000 cartons of the special edition thematic packs of cigarettes have been distributed nationwide, with nearly 25% of the cartons sent to numerous New York locations such as convenience stores, drug stores, gas stations and other retail stores
Spitzer filed a motion earlier in the week, seeking to stop B&W's "Kool MIXX" campaign, which is focused on hip-hop music and culture, including DJ competitions, interactive CD-ROMs, and special collectible bags, radios, lighters and cigarette packs. Copies of the CDs were distributed free in Spin, Vibe, and Rolling Stone all of which have high youth readership, and B&W has set up a special "House of Menthol" internet website.
Justice Ramos is allowing B&W to hold its planned DJ competitions, because they take place in "adult-only" facilities. However, B&W's advertising for those events will be limited to the type of advertising that it has used in prior years, rather than using the hip hop images that have been appearing in magazines and newspapers this year.
B&W; is running a national "Kool MIXX 2004" promotion focused on hip-hop music and culture, including DJ competitions, interactive CD-ROMs, and special collectible bags, radios, lighters and cigarette packs. Kool MIXX 2004 promotions have appeared in Spin, Vibe, Rolling Stone and Entertianment Weekly, magazines that have high youth readership, and B&W; has set up a special "House of Menthol" internet website and toll-free telephone number. They have also distributed in excess of 1.7 million CD-ROMs nationwide.
Spitzers court motion asserted that the promotional campaign violates several provisions of the MSA, including the prohibition against: (a) cigarette marketing that targets youth; (b) use of brand name merchandise; (c) payments to place tobacco products in media; and (d) limitations on brand name sponsorships.
"Brown & Williamsons campaign is a shameless attempt to market Kool cigarettes to children and teenagers, particularly African American youth," Spitzer said. "Hip-hop music is youth-driven. By targeting this music genre and culture through CDs, advertising and other promotions Brown and Williamson clearly violates the terms of the MSA for their own profit."
New Yorks action is the most recent step in a coordinated multi-state effort to stop B&W; from marketing its cigarettes to youth. During the past three months, Attorney General Spitzer, Maine Attorney General G. Steven Rowe and Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, acting on behalf of 35 other states and jurisdictions, have written to B&W; asking the company to terminate the "Kool MIXX" promotion. While B&W; has agreed to stop distributing the special packs and merchandise, they are moving forward with the national DJ and MC competitions, culminating in a final competition to be held on July 24th in Chicago, which will be broadcast live on the "House of Menthol" website.
"It is absolutely offensive that Brown & Williamson is targeting African American youth in these promotional efforts, and I am very pleased that Attorney General Spitzer is moving to stop them," said Councilman Bill Perkins. "Tobacco use and tobacco-related illnesses already are disproportionately high in communities of color, and this attempt to get more of our children and teenagers hooked on smoking is unconscionable."
"The world understands Harlem as the center of African American culture. Unfortunately, we also have the highest smoking rates in the nation. If the Harlem community allows campaigns like Kool Mixx to exist, we are sending the message that negative corporate elements can exploit not just Black culture, but youth and hip hop culture as well. Brown and Williamson's Kool Mixx hip hop campaign is irresponsible, and is not welcome in Harlem," said Chair of the Harlem Tobacco Community Action Board Courtney A. Bennett.
"B&W; agreed not to engage in this type of marketing when they signed the MSA, and that agreement was made part of a court order. Every teenager who becomes a smoker because they are attracted by the Kool MIXX advertising campaign is likely to be faced with a lifetime of addiction and disease, and it is essential that we move aggressively and severely punish these egregious actions, Spitzer said."