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SAN DIEGO -- A judge fined R.J. Reynolds Co. $20 million Thursday for violating the terms of the 1998 national tobacco settlement by running magazine ads aimed at teen-agers.
The state attorney general's office, which filed suit against the nation's number-two tobacco company last year, asked the judge to fine Reynolds $25 million and ban it from advertising in 50 magazines read by teens, according to the Washington Post. The national tobacco settlement with 46 states makes no specific mention of magazine advertising but includes a ban on tobacco companies taking "any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth."
Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager found Reynolds violated that agreement. In addition to fining the company, he ordered Reynolds to take "reasonable measures" to reduce youth exposures to its tobacco products, but he did not specify how that should be done. Lawyers for Reynolds had contended that such a restriction on advertising would violate the company's First Amendment rights.
Reynolds said its intended targets are young adults. Company policy forbids ads in magazines with youth readership of more than 25 percent. However, Reynolds lawyers conceded that an unintended consequence of targeting young adults is that some teens are likely to see its ads. Expert witnesses testifying for the state said teens were often more likely than adults to see Reynolds' advertising, suggesting that the company was exploiting a loophole to reach youths, the report said.