Tobacco butts out of showbiz

Paid placements a thing of the past

Under Minnesota’s landmark $6 billion settlement with tobacco makers, reached on Friday, the companies have agreed not to pay Hollywood producers and studios to place cigarettes or other tobacco-related props in movies.

The ban, national in scope, is sure to please organizations, such as the Entertainment Industry Council, that have been advocating a stop to smoking by actors in movies and on television.

But the most recent Federal Trade Commission report to Congress on tobacco sales and advertising, which covered 1996, said that tobacco companies have spent no money to place tobacco products in movies or on TV since 1989.

Nevertheless, complaints over recent images of high-profile stars such as Julia Roberts puffing on cigarettes in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” show that the issue remains a volatile one for the industry.

The settlement requires the industry to stop all billboard and transit advertising in Minnesota and stop marketing cigarette logo promotional devices such as baseball caps and tote bags in the state.

The deal, announced as the case was about to go to a jury after 16 weeks of trial, will cost the industry more than $6 billion.

Suits brought by Mississippi, Florida and Texas were settled pre-trial for a total of about $30 billion.

The defendants in the case were Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, Liggett, American Tobacco and two tobacco trade groups.