Vt. AG announces $8.3M court order against tobacco company

By Bryan Cohen | Jun 6, 2013

MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) -- Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced Tuesday an $8.3 million court order against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for allegedly violating the state's consumer protection laws.

Vermont Superior Court Judge Dennis Pearson imposed $8.3 million in penalties for Reynolds' allegedly deceptive advertising of its Eclipse tobacco product.

The company allegedly marketed the product as a "risk reduction" product without any scientific basis.

Pearson also issued an injunction that prohibits Reynolds from making claims that products are "risk reduction" without supporting studies that are accepted by the scientific community.

"This decision is a multi-million-dollar wakeup call for Reynolds and other tobacco companies," Sorrell said in a statement. "If you make unsubstantiated health claims about your deadly products, you will pay dearly. Any attempts to advertise alternative tobacco products with deceptive health-benefit claims will not be tolerated.

"Once again, Vermont has led the way on tobacco issues with nationwide implications, establishing an important precedent in the ongoing battle to protect consumers."

Reynolds allegedly committed thousands of violations by using the deceptive "reduced risk" claims to promote Eclipse through a multi-media advertising campaign that included print ads in nationwide publications, on a website, in direct mail materials and on cigarette packages.

Reynolds allegedly continued to make its illegal statements more than two years after the company received a letter from 40 attorneys general demanding the company stop its practices.

In a March 2010 ruling, Pearson found that Reynolds violated consumer protection law and a prior court order.

In Tuesday's ruling, the judge concluded that Reynolds should be forced to pay substantial civil penalties and be issued an injunction to prevent similar conduct in marketing its other tobacco products in the future.

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