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WASHINGTON -- The top executive of Lorillard Tobacco denied in court Tuesday that the company had tried to recruit underage smokers through an advertising campaign for its popular Newport cigarette brand, reported Reuters.
Martin Orlowsky, chairman and CEO of Lorillard, told a federal judge that the 30-year "Alive with pleasure" campaign was not aimed at hawking Newport cigarettes to anyone under 21, and Lorillard would not try to reverse the decline in the U.S. cigarette market by recruiting new smokers.
"We did not spend any money by design through intent to market to anyone who was not an adult smoker," Orlowsky told U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler.
Orlowsky took the stand at the beginning of the fourth week of the government's $280 billion racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
Filed in 1999, the suit targets Altria Group Inc. and its Philip Morris USA unit, as well as Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco unit, which has a tracking stock, Carolina Group. Vector Group Ltd.'s Liggett Group, Reynolds American Inc.'s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and British American Tobacco Investments Ltd are also named in the suit.
The government charges cigarette makers worked together to deceive and confuse the public about the dangers of smoking as part of a 50-year industry conspiracy. The tobacco companies deny they conspired to promote smoking and say the government has no grounds to pursue them after they drastically changed marketing practices as part of a 1998 settlement with state attorneys general.
In court on Tuesday, Justice Department lawyer Stephen Brody confronted Orlowsky with two of the magazine ads used in the "Alive With Pleasure" marketing campaign, and questioned whether the models used in them were consistent with industry promises not to market to people under 21.
Under an industry advertising code that dates back to the 1960s, the tobacco companies have promised not to advertise in publications "directed primarily" at people under 21; not to depict any smokers younger than 25 in their ads; and not to depict people participating in "physical activity requiring stamina or athletic conditioning beyond that of a normal recreation."
In pre-written testimony, Orlowsky denied suggestions the ads violated the industry's code. "Young is hard to define," Orlowsky wrote over and over again.
Lorillard intended the advertisements would reinforce the brand image and product availability to adult smokers, and also hoped they might encourage adult smokers of competitive brands to try Newport, Orlowsky said in prepared testimony.