NEW ORLEANS: A $590 million judgment against four tobacco companies includes funding for antismoking PR programs.
The judgment, which was issued May 21 by the Louisiana District Court, Orleans Parish, is the first time a jury has required tobacco firms to fund antismoking efforts. The companies plan to appeal.
A third-party administrator will manage the funds with input from "top physicians in the country," said Russ Herman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. A timeframe is not specified.
Media relations to promote smoking cessation is one of 12 components of the judgment, which also included funding for telephone hotlines and nicotine patches, Herman said.
John Sorrells, a communications director at Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, said that the tobacco companies would not be involved in developing any of the campaigns.
At Brown & Williamson, Mark Smith, director of public affairs and issues management, noted that the company is already a $30 million sponsor of the American Legacy Foundation, which encourages smoking cessation.
The companies are also paying $200 billion as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which had a public-education component. "It does beg the questions, 'Isn't that done already? Why must we have more legislation?' " Smith said.
The other two companies are R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard.