On 1/13, Target Market News broke a story that DOJ and the largest tobacco companies had negotiated a consent order in the long running litigation between DOJ and Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and Lorillard, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The proposed consent order provided the details of an advertising program the tobacco companies have been directed to air to provide the public the truth about the negative health effects of using tobacco products. The consent order created a national advertising campaign. But the national ad campaign, says NABOB, directed no advertising dollars to the African American community, even though for decades the community was heavily targeted by the tobacco companies’ misleading ads promoting smoking and hiding the truth about the potential negative health effects.
On 1/15, NABOB wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to review the consent order proposed by the Department of Justice. In the letter, NABOB explained that the consent order requires the tobacco companies to air commercials that contain “corrective statements” informing the public of the harmful effects that smoking causes.
NABOB pointed out that, in the litigation, it was demonstrated that the tobacco companies had specifically targeted African American communities, particularly young people, with advertising and promotions designed to increase smoking. Yet, the proposed consent order required that the corrective commercial campaign be run exclusively on ABC, CBS, NBC, and 35 newspapers, including some Spanish language newspapers.
The consent decree did not obligate the tobacco companies to place any commercials on Black owned media, or even media targeting the African American community. NABOB asked Attorney General Holder to have DOJ revise the consent decree to specifically require the tobacco companies to advertise on Black-owned media.
On 1/17, NABOB was invited by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NPAA) to join in filing an amicus brief advising the court of the need to use Black owned media to effectively reach and inform the African American community. NABOB and NNPA requested that members be added to the media included in the consent decree.
On 1/22, Judge Gladys Kessler held a status conference. She noted that the settlement that the DOJ and tobacco companies had offered to her for approval raised a number of concerns that she plans to consider before deciding whether to approve the settlement. The first concern that the judge raised is whether the advertising plan in the settlement failed to target a significant part of the public. This is clearly the point that NABOB and NNPA raised in our amicus brief.
On 4/22, the tobacco companies and DOJ proposed a revised consent decree to the judge. In the revised consent decree, the tobacco companies and the DOJ proposed some token use of Black newspapers and no use of Black radio. On 5/28, NNPA and NABOB will file an opposition to the proposed revised consent decree, and we will continue to press the case that the settlement must be rejected by the judge and revised to include meaningful use of Black owned media in the campaign.