WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today refused to hear an appeal by two North Carolina-based tobacco companies who claimed California's tough anti-smoking ads smeared their reputations.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., now Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., and Lorillard Tobacco Co. of Greensboro, N.C., had asked the justices to overturn a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that rejected the companies' claims that their First Amendment rights were violated by California's ad campaign.
California uses part of an 87-cent tax on every package of cigarettes to fund health education that includes a campaign to discourage smoking.
The ads included a scene where cigarettes rained down on children playing in a schoolyard as a voice, purportedly of a tobacco executive, announced, "We have to sell cigarettes to your kids. We need half a million new smokers a year just to stay in business ... It's nothing personal. You understand."
The companies objected to the state using revenue from taxes on cigarettes, effectively forcing the tobacco industry to pay to vilify itself.