ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Altria, Philip Morris USA Inc., ITG Brands and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company have sent notices to their retailer partners regarding an update on the requirement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to supply court-ordered signs to stores that have contracts with any of these companies.
In December, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia formally approved a settlement agreement between the DOJ and Altria, Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, as well as 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 24 months.
The updates communicated in the notices include:
- Amendments to each of the company’s retail merchandising agreements, which was required by the consent order;
- Additional details around placement of corrective-statement signs at retail; and
- A summary of implementation activities during the initial posting period.
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 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, preapproved 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.