ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on December 6 formally approved a settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Altria, Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, as well as to four cigarette brands owned by ITG Brands LLC. The agreement resolves long-running litigation over the communications of tobacco-related messaging at retail locations.
Entered into in July and approved in December, the agreement requires these tobacco companies to supply court-ordered signs to stores that have contracts with any of them and requires those retail outlets to post the signs for a total of 21 months.
In light of the final court order, NACS has updated its summary of the agreement, as well as answers to frequently asked questions about it.
The order takes effect on July 1, 2023, and gives the tobacco firms three months to post the corrective statements (in both English and Spanish) in stores, according to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department has provided examples of the signs that retailers must display on the Consumer Protection Branch website.
The agreement covers the last remaining dispute from the lawsuit DOJ filed against Altria, Philip Morris USA Inc. and RJ Reynolds in the 1990s. NACS and the tobacco companies spent 17 years fighting any signage requirement through the litigation process and, along with the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, also participated in the negotiations that led to the agreement in order to advocate for retailers.
The agreement provides that each store under contract with one of the manufacturers will have to post at least one sign carrying one of 17 different, pre-approved health messages that will be distributed at random to retailers around the country. Each store will be required to rotate to a new message halfway through the time period required in the agreement. The manufacturers will be required to hire auditors to check whether the signs are properly posted.