Tobacco

Retailers May Have to Post Tobacco Warnings: Settlement

Manufacturers would supply stores with signage under pending Justice Department order
Image courtesy the U.S. Department of Justice

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a consent order that will require tobacco companies, including Altria, Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and ITG Brands, to post tobacco-related messaging at retail locations including convenience stores. The order will require tobacco companies to supply approved signs to stores that sell their products and will require those stores to post the signs for 21 months.

As first reported by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the order resolves a lawsuit that the Justice Department and public health groups filed against the big tobacco companies in the 1990s. NACS, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) and the tobacco companies have fought the signage requirement through litigation for decades.

The agreement requires each store to post at the checkout at least one sign carrying one of 17 different, pre-approved health messages, distributed at random to retailers. Each store will be required to rotate to a new message (see below) halfway through the agreement period. The manufacturers will be required to hire auditors to check whether the signs are posted properly.

The point-of-sale (POS) corrective statement signs come in two sizes, according to the court documents: 348 and 144 square inches, in both a rectangular and square orientation. The retailer cannot alter the content, size, shape or color of the signs.

A hearing on the proposed agreement will be held in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on July 28 and 29, said NACS. The court will then decide whether to accept the agreement and enter an order to implement it. The effective date for retailers to post the signs will depend on when the court decides whether to accept the agreement. NACS will not object to the agreement because of the risk to retailers if the agreement is not accepted, it said.

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