MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell announced on Monday that his office obtained $8.3 million in civil penalties and permanent injunctive relief from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
The recovery is the result of a successful lawsuit filed by Sorrell in 2005 which alleged Reynolds made unsubstantiated advertising claims regarding the health consequences of using one of its tobacco products. Reynolds allegedly used print ads, direct mail materials, a promotional website and cigarette packets to promote Eclipse, a non-traditional cigarette the company claimed would reduce a smoker's chances of developing cancer.
In 2010, a trial court found Reynolds did not conduct sufficient scientific studies to support the advertising claims about Eclipse products.
The court later awarded Vermont $8.3 million in civil penalties for the violations and issued a permanent injunction against Reynolds to prevent future misconduct.
Under the terms of a settlement, Reynolds will pay a total of $14 million to the state, including $8.3 million in civil penalties, with the rest going to attorney fees and costs. The portion going to attorney costs will be divided between Sorrell's office, other state attorneys general offices, a private attorney who worked on the lawsuit and the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Enforcement Fund.
"This was a long and hard, but successful fight," Sorrell said. "Reynolds crossed the line and it cost them. At a time when tobacco companies are trying to find ways to hook new smokers, Vermont has sent a message that advertising tobacco products with unsubstantiated health-benefit claims is illegal and will not be tolerated."