Attorneys general urge R.J. Reynolds to stop drinking promotion |

Attorneys general urge R.J. Reynolds to stop drinking promotion

RALEIGH, N.C. – The attorneys general of California, Maryland and New York are urging R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to end its “Drinks on Us” birthday promotion, saying it reflects a “cavalier and dangerous attitude toward drinking.”In their complaint with RJR, the three cite research that finds people are more likely to smoke when drinking, and that smokers who regularly drink are nearly twice as likely to suffer genetic mutations associated with lung cancer than those who do not. They also say RJR’s direct-mail campaign may be reaching underage drinkers and smokers.”For years, RJR has demonstrated it doesn’t care about the health of our children, doing its best to hook them on cigarettes with targeted advertising, free samples and other schemes,” California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in a statement Tuesday. “Now it has expanded its horizons to encourage young adults to go on drinking binges that endanger themselves and others.”Lockyer, Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer first asked R.J. Reynolds, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. and the nation’s second-largest tobacco company, to end the program in a letter sent last month.In it, they said a Maryland resident had received a box from R.J. Reynolds on his 22nd birthday containing six coasters, each featuring a recipe for a different mixed drink. A coaster with the recipe for a drink called “Blue in the Face” included the message, “If You Turn Green, You’re Doing It Wrong,” the letter said. A recipe for a drink called “After Dark” included the message, “Layer It On, Go ‘Til Daybreak.”Officials at Winston-Salem-based R.J. Reynolds did not immediately return a message left Tuesday by The Associated Press. But in a Nov. 29 letter to the attorneys general, the company said it strongly disagrees with the state’s characterization of the “Drinks on Us” promotion.James Beckett, the company’s senior counsel, wrote that the program is scheduled to end no later than April.”The coasters are sent to adult smokers older than 21 years of age on their birthdays,” Beckett wrote. “Those who receive the coasters or any of our mailings may at any time ask to be removed from our mailing list.”Along with the three attorneys general, several alcoholic beverage companies are upset with the promotion. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said the promotion was “apparently directed to individuals aged 18 and older,” with wording promoting excessive and irresponsible consumption of alcohol.A spokesman for Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman Corp. said the maker of Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort has asked Reynolds to stop using its trademarks without permission. The ingredients on one coaster lists those spirits by brand name.”The indications of the promotions of overindulgence (and) overconsuming is against our policy,” said Phil Lynch, spokesman for Brown-Forman Corp.Share of Reynolds American closed up $2.63, or 2.8 percent, at $95.48 in trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.Vail, Colorado

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