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Judge Dismisses ‘Joe Camel’ Suit

December 13, 1994

SEATTLE (AP) _ A lawsuit that tried to stop the ″Joe Camel″ advertising campaign for Camel cigarettes was dismissed by a federal judge.

The lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the maker of Camels, argued the ad campaign is false, deceptive, and encourages young people to smoke and therefore violates state law. U.S. District Judge John Coughenour ruled that a federal law on cigarette advertising takes precedence over a state statute.

The lawsuit was filed by Karen Sparks, the mother of two children, who contends that ads with the Joe Camel cartoon character encourage young people to break an 1895 Washington law dealing with public health and cigarettes.

In his decision, issued Friday, Coughenour cited the 1965 Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, which provides for uniform cigarette labeling to avoid a confusion over advertising regulations written by states.

Coughenour said states clearly have the power to bar cigarette sales to minors, but ″regulating nonfalse advertising based on smoking and health is reserved to the federal government.″

He dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.

In a news release issued Monday, R.J. Reynolds said it agrees that young people should not smoke.

″We hope that people will focus on what research continually indicates is at the heart of youth smoking - access and peer pressure,″ the company said.

In addition to R.J. Reynolds, of Winston-Salem, N.C., defendants in the suit included the tobacco maker’s parent company, RJR Nabisco Inc., and ad agencies McCann Erickson USA Inc. and Young & Rubicam Inc., all of New York.

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