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Judge, Citing Reservations, Backs Anti-Tobacco Ads

A Delaware judge has ruled that an edgy set of anti-smoking ads aimed at young people does not cross the line of vilifying tobacco companies or their employees. But in a couple of instances, the judge said, the ads cut it close. A Lorillard Tobacco Co. official said the company would appeal the ruling.

The anti-smoking ads were financed by cigarette makers as part of a historic 1998 legal settlement with 46 states. The campaign, called "the truth," is sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation.

One radio ad takes its theme from an industry statement that tobacco naturally contains urea -- an ingredient also found in dog urine. A professional dog walker calls Lorillard and offers to sell dog urine to the company. "I was just hoping to make a little extra spending cash under the table," he says.

It prompted Lorillard to sue to stop the ads, saying they vilified the tobacco industry in violation of the settlement agreement.

The judge in the case disagreed. Vice Chancellor Stephen Lamb of Delaware's Court of Chancery said none of the messages vilified the industry. He did say that, by naming Lorillard specifically, the dog walker ad might have violated the agreement's bar against personal attacks. But he said Lorillard didn't make that specific argument, so he couldn't rule on that point.

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Libby Lewis
Libby Lewis is an award-winning reporter on the National Desk whose pieces on issues of law, society, criminal justice, the military and social policy can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, Weekend Edition Saturday, and other NPR shows.