Major tobacco companies have come to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over tobacco-related messaging at retail, ending a nearly two decades-long challenge, reports Convenience Store.
According to NACS, the agreement requires Altria, Philip Morris USA Inc., RJ Reynolds Tobacco and ITG Brands to supply court-ordered signs to stores they have contracts with and require those stores to post the signs for 21 months.
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 have fought any signage requirement for 17 years 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.
"This litigation has always put the retailers in a uniquely bad position," said Doug Kantor, NACS general counsel. "Retailers were not parties to the lawsuit and should not be burdened with a court-ordered remedy, but this negotiated outcome avoids even worse results that DOJ and public health groups were advocating."
The association reports that the agreement requires each store under contract with one of the manufacturers to post at least one sign with one of 17 different, pre-approved health messages that will be randomly distributed to retailers across the country. Each store will be required to rotate to a new message halfway through the time period required in the agreement, the report said.
A hearing on the proposed agreement will be held in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on 28 and 29 July. The court will then decide whether to accept the agreement and enter an order to implement it. Retailers may support or oppose the agreement in writing or at the hearing, it added.