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Camel ads included cartoons, court says

Damages at stake for RJ Reynolds

Gene Johnson Associated Press

SEATTLE – For the second time in two months, a court said Monday that an advertisement RJ Reynolds placed in Rolling Stone magazine broke the tobacco industry’s 1998 settlement with the states by using cartoons, and the company will have to pay damages.

The Washington state Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s finding that content Reynolds produced for the 2007 Rolling Stone advertisement did not include cartoons.

Though the photographic images weren’t Disney-style illustrations, the appeals court said they were cartoonishly arranged in a bucolic collage. The theme of the “Camel Farm” ad campaign was that Reynolds was helping to support – grow – independent music.

At least eight states – Maine, Ohio, California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Washington – sued the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company after the fold-out advertisement appeared in one of Rolling Stone’s special 40th anniversary issues.

The Maine and Ohio judges sided with the company and California came back with a split decision. In May, a Pennsylvania judge became the first to hold Reynolds liable, ordering the company to pay $302,000 or run a full-page anti-smoking ad in Rolling Stone. Reynolds vowed to appeal.

Washington’s court said Monday that Reynolds couldn’t be held liable for content produced by Rolling Stone without the company’s knowledge, but that the company’s own content fell within the settlement’s cartoon prohibition, aimed at restricting the tobacco industry’s ability to market to young people.

The decision overturned a ruling by King County Superior Court Judge William Downing, who determined that the ad did not include traditional cartoons and that its overall effect was thought-provoking rather than humorous.

“The trial court looked at the cartoon provision and assumed that if an advertisement wasn’t targeting children, it wasn’t a cartoon,” Assistant Attorney General Rene David Tomisser said Monday. “That’s not what the cartoon provision was intended to be.”

The appeals court ordered the lower court to calculate damages. Tomisser said he does not know what the state will request; previously, the state sought $100 for each of the 35,000 copies of the magazine sold in Washington. Tomisser said he would seek additional damages for every time the ad appeared on Web sites or on billboards or signs at concerts in the state.

It wasn’t known if the company planned to appeal.

Seattle-based Reynolds attorney Brad Keller did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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