R.J. Reynolds accused of violating tobacco settlement with free

Wednesday, December 1st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) -- R.J. Reynolds has been mailing out free samples of Winston cigarettes, and Arizona's attorney general says the promotion violates the national tobacco settlement.

"These are thinly disguised efforts to target youth -- to get kids who may pick them up in the mail first to get them to start smoking," said state Attorney General Janet Napolitano, who threatened to get a court order to stop the mailing.

Reynolds maintains it did nothing wrong. A spokeswoman said Wednesday the company has safeguards to ensure the cigarettes are
mailed only to adults over age 21 who have already certified their age in writing.

Since the national promotion started in July, Reynolds said, only several Arizona residents and one person in North Carolina
have complained about receiving the samples.

The samples come in canisters or book-size parcels containing two to four packets of Winstons. The brown, decorated tubes and
boxes include a survey asking recipients to smoke the cigarettes, then share their comments with the company, based in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Ms. Napolitano wrote a letter Tuesday to Reynolds demanding an explanation of the giveaway and whether the company believes it is abiding by the settlement. Under the settlement, the company and Ms. Napolitano must meet before she can take any court action.

"We have received it and we will respond to it as quickly as possible. At this point, we don't have any reason to believe we have done anything wrong," said company spokeswoman Carol Crosslyn. "We are confident our safeguards are solid."

Ms. Crosslyn said the company keeps a database of age-qualified people who signed up to participate in product testing or receive
mail from Reynolds.

Pati Urias, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said all of the calls they have received since last week have been "from
nonsmokers and people who have no idea why they're getting these cigarettes in the mail.