Thursday, Dec. 10, 1998

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Fisher announces settlement with Pittsburgh-based sellers of Nicorette Gum and NicoDerm CQ

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Mike Fisher today announced that Pennsylvania and 11 other states have reached a $2.5 million settlement with the marketers of a nicotine gum and a nicotine skin patch, resolving claims that the national advertising campaigns for both products were misleading to consumers who wanted to quit smoking.

Fisher said the agreement was reached with SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare, L.P., 100 Beecham Dr., Pittsburgh, to settle alleged violations of the state's Consumer Protection Laws. Fisher said the settlement will result in more than $153,000 for smoking cessation programs in Pennsylvania.

"Unfortunately, these over-the-counter products did not live up to their advertising claims," Fisher said. "Many consumers were willing to spend money on the gum or the three-step patch program because the ads led smokers to believe that these products would enable them to kick the habit for good. In reality, the majority of those who use these and similar products return to smoking after a year."

According to an investigation by the Attorneys General, SmithKline’s national advertising campaign misled or deceived consumers by: 1. Claiming that smokers would be able to quit permanently using NicoDerm CQ or Nicorette when, in fact, most smokers are unsuccessful in their attempts to quit or resumed smoking after one year. 2. Prominently featuring the name and logo of the American Cancer Society with the phrase "Partners in Helping You Quit," falsely implying that the organization endorsed the products. Rather, SmithKline paid $1 million for the first year, plus additional royalties, to use the nonprofit’s name and logo. 3. Claiming that NicoDerm CQ was superior to other nicotine patch products when no studies exist that show its patch is more effective than other nicotine patches in getting people to quit. The use of the American Cancer Society’s name and logo on the packaging also falsely suggested that the nonprofit found SmithKline’s product to be better than othernicotine patches.

"Getting smokers to decide it’s time to give up cigarettes is half the battle," Fisher said. "Falsely assuring them that a product will do the rest is counter productive to the ultimate goal of becoming non-smokers."

Under the terms of the settlement, SmithKline does not admit to any wrongdoing and agrees to: 1. No longer use the phrases "power to quit," "power to quit successfully" or "you bring the commitment, NicoDerm CQ brings the rest" in its ad campaigns. 2. Clearly and conspicuously disclose in its ads that consumers’ chances of quitting can improve with a counseling program. 3. Cease making unsubstantiated claims that its product is superior to others like it on the market. 4. Include disclaimers regarding any implied endorsements by the American Cancer Society or other organizations. 5. Cease using the American Cancer Society’s name and logo in ads that mention or display a competitor’s product.

Fisher said SmithKline is also required to pay the states $600,000 for the costs of investigation and $1.9 million for anti-smoking public health initiatives. Pennsylvania will receive $153,333.33 for smoking cessation campaigns, programs or materials. The state also will receive $50,000 for the costs of investigation.

Representing Pennsylvania in the multi-state settlement was Deputy Attorney General Jesse F. Harvey of Fisher’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Office in Erie.

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