WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The nation's state attorneys general say they are looking forward to working with the federal Food and Drug Administration as a new law being challenged by tobacco companies takes effect.
Massachusetts' Martha Coakley and Nebraska's Jon Bruning, the co-chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Committee, submitted comments to the FDA on Dec. 9 regarding the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
The attorneys general say their experience enforcing the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 will help the FDA.
"Through the enforcement of the (MSA) and four separate state settlements, state attorneys general have pursued three primary goals: Holding the tobacco industry accountable for the harm its products inflict on society; placing restrictions on the industry's advertising and promotional activities, particularly those targeted at youth; and educating citizens concerning the health consequences of tobacco use," the letter says.
Advertising restrictions are being challenged in a Kentucky federal court by R.J. Reynolds, National Tobacco, Lorillard, Discount Tobacco City & Lottery, Conwood Company and Commonwealth Brands.
The companies are not challenging any of the provisions that limit speech to minors, but have problems with the restrictions placed on information to adults.
The act prohibits them from using color lettering, trademarks, logos or any other imagery in most advertisements. Also, a government-drafted anti-tobacco message on packaging leaves the companies with a small portion of the bottom half of cigarette packages "to communicate with adult consumers," the plaintiffs say.
"The obvious purpose of this is to force Plaintiffs to stigmatize their own products through their own packaging," the complaint says.
The attorneys general say that the tobacco industry changes its marketing methods to take advantage of new technologies like the Internet.
"We suggest that anticipation of new methodologies that the tobacco industry may pursue is critical for the success of our mutual regulatory efforts," the letter says.
The letter also says federal efforts need to focus on Internet sales and sales emanating from vendors located on Indian reservations, both of which contribute to tobacco use by minors because ages aren't verified properly.
The attorneys general suggest a joint effort on retailer enforcement and dissolvable tobacco products.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.