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Two Cigarette Cos. To Change Ads

April 28, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two companies that make unconventional cigarettes _ one marketing an all-natural brand and the other selling an herbal blend _ would stop advertising their products as safe alternatives to regular cigarettes under settlements proposed Friday by the government.

The Federal Trade Commission lodged separate complaints against Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc. of Santa Fe, N.M., and Alternative Cigarettes Inc. of Buffalo, N.Y., alleging that their advertisements are deceptive because they imply that their products are safer to smoke than other cigarettes.

``These cigarettes are marketed with a ‘natural’ aura, but they’re neither healthy nor safe,″ said Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection. ``The fact is, there’s no such thing as a safe smoke.″

From now on, when the companies make a ``no additives″ claim, they also must print on the package, ``No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.″

Both companies also agreed to disclose on packages of herbal cigarettes that ``Herbal cigarettes are dangerous to your health. They produce tar and carbon monoxide.″

The settlements don’t constitute an admission by the companies that any laws were broken.

Robin Sommers, president and chief executive officer of Santa Fe Natural, said in a written statement that the company voluntarily began placing a disclosure statement on its packages as early as 1997 but agreed to the changes requested by the FTC for the sake of uniformity on industry warning labels.

``We do not agree that any of our past additive-free statements were deceptive or misleading in any way,″ Sommers said. ``We believed at the time, and we continue to believe, that these statements are the most accurate, truthful tobacco disclosure statements in the industry.″

A spokesman for Alternative did not return a telephone message left with a receptionist at the company’s New York office.

Santa Fe markets ``Natural American Spirit″ tobacco cigarettes and tobacco-free herbal cigarettes. Alternative Cigarettes sells ``Pure″ and ``Gold″ tobacco cigarettes, as well as ``Herbal Gold″ and ``Magic″ herbal cigarettes.

The government alleged that Alternative Cigarettes tried to portray their product as safer than others with the claim that ``Native Americans smoked all-natural tobacco without the ills that are associated with smoking today.″ The FTC also said that even herbal cigarettes contain carcinogens and toxins, including tar and carbon monoxide.

Under the settlements, the companies also would be required to notify distributors and retailers that they should stop using existing ads and any promotional materials that make the disputed claims.

The settlements will be subject to public comment until May 30, when the commission will decide whether to make the decisions final. The settlements don’t carry a fine but any future violations could carry a civil penalty of $11,000 for each breach.

___

On the Net

FTC: http://www.ftc.gov

Alternative Cigarettes Inc.: http://www.altcigs.com

Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc.: http://www.nascigs.com/sfntc_3.asp

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