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    R.J. Reynolds Expands Advocacy Web Site

    The online resource has expanded to help retailers in any state battle tobacco legislation, including tax increases, anti-smoking bans and more.

    By Mehgan Belanger

    WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The second largest U.S. cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJRT), recently expanded its tobacco advocacy Web site for retailers and wholesalers -- NoCigTax.com -- to include materials on state-level excise tax legislation, as well as the original issue covered: the federal excise tax (FET) increase on cigarettes, company representatives told CSNews Online.

    In a meeting earlier this week with CSNews Online, Dave Riser, vice president of government relations and trade marketing for RJRT, emphasized the original site saw more than 30,000 visits and generated more than 120,000 contacts to legislators on the FET between June and December 2007. Moreover, more than 1,100 tobacco-related bills -- including anti-smoking efforts and state tax increases -- were introduced in 2007. Due to the continued targeting of cigarettes for tax increases, and the impact it had on the company's retail and wholesale partners, RJRT saw a need to expand its Web site to cover cigarette legislation both on the state and federal level, he said.

    "This is a commitment to our trade partners who face the challenges of the industry," he said. "This is less about R.J. Reynolds, than letting them know their opinion counts, it does matter, and it can make a difference."

    On the redesigned Web site, retailers and wholesalers will find state-specific information regarding active legislation and materials to use when contacting elected officials. In the middle of its home page, the site lists the most active tax-related bills, explained Riser. Simply by clicking a state, retailers can learn the latest news regarding the bill, the details of the bill, and links to contact elected officials about the bill.

    The site also provides a form that can e-mail legislators a pre-written message, or a customized one. To do so, visitors enter a zip code, select a message or enter their own, enter their contact information, and then click a button to send the message.

    The entire process can take a little as three minutes, said Riser. It also provides other ways to contact elected officials, such as through a phone call, a personal e-mail or letter or through letters to the editor.

    While one of the most critical issues for RJRT is state tax increases, the No. 1 ongoing issue is H.R. 1108, a bill that would allow the FDA to regulate the sale and manufacture of tobacco products, said Riser.

    To that end, the NoCigTax.com Web site also has a microsite dedicated to fighting that legislation. Called FDAConcerns.com, the site details opposition to having the FDA monitor tobacco products, including a November 2007 study by the agency's Science Board Subcommittee on Science and Technology. Similar to the NoCigTax.com site, it provides a tool to send elected officials a customized or pre-written e-mail.

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