Those of you that enjoy reading legal documents (or at least The Smoking Gun) might remember that Toronto punk band Fucked Up and indie rockers Xiu Xiu sued R.J. Reynolds and Camel cigarettes a few years back. The bands appeared as part of a nine-page foldout section in the 40th anniversary Rolling Stone magazine as part of “the indie rock universe.” Problem is, neither band was asked permission by Camel to use them in the ad.
And actually, that’s only one of the problems. Camel was sued by eight states as well for the ad, which looks cartoony. Not to legally geek out, but as part of a multi-state Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco companies are forbidden to use cartoons to market tobacco products (which is why you haven’t seen this guy around lately). Apparently, R.J. Reynolds didn’t learn their lesson, and decided to drag some bands down with them.
While the class action lawsuit filed by Fucked Up and Xiu Xiu (on behalf of the 186 bands used in the spread) against R.J. Reynolds has yet to be settled, The Daily Swarm reports that the first ruling in the states’ lawsuits has come down.
A Philadelphia judge has ruled that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. violated the multi-state tobacco Master Settlement Agreement with an ad it ran in an issue of Rolling Stone in 2007 and must either run a “youth oriented anti-smoking advertisement” in the magazine in the next year or pay a sanction of more than $300,000.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge William J. Manfredi issued his order and opinion Tuesday in response to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s motion seeking sanctions in response to Reynolds’ Camel’s the Farm advertisement. According to Manfredi’s opinion, the ad was a cartoon. The MSA clearly forbids companies from using cartoons to promote tobacco products, Manfredi said.
While running a ‘smoking is bad, mmmkay?’ ad in Rolling Stone or paying 300 grand is just a drop in the bucket for big tobacco, remember there are seven other states with pending suits, as well as the bands’ lawsuit. And that’s not even taking into account the bands’ additional suit against Rolling Stone publisher Wenner Media. Under California law, where the band lawsuit was filed, punitive damages could amount to $750 per issue of Rolling Stone per band. Don’t get a calculator – we’ve done the math for you. It’s $195.3 billion. Yes. Billion.