RJ Reynolds, 1980-1991

From 1980 to 1991, RJ Reynolds paid its Hollywood public relations agency up to $200,000 a year, plus expenses, to run a product placement program and other tobacco promotions inside the U.S. film industry. [1] The agency's reports to RJ Reynolds show that it placed tobacco products in at least one hundred major motion pictures, the majority (54%) youth-rated PG or PG-13.

In 1990, when Congress began to examine tobacco placement in U.S. movies, Reynolds and its PR agency shifted product placement activities offshore, offering the agency’s London-based office as much as $8,200 in bonuses for each film in European distribution that displayed an RJ Reynolds tobacco brand. [2] U.S.-produced films dominate movie screens in Europe.

Yet RJ Reynolds reported no product placement spending to the Federal Trade Commission after 1988. [3]

Note 1 | Based on “activity reports” and contractual agreements between RJ Reynolds and Rogers & Cowan for 198019811986 (“continues to retain”), 1987198819891990, and 1991.

Note 2 | Two “consulting agreements” between RJ Reynolds Tobacco International and Rogers & Cowan International for 1990-1991 and 1992.

Note 3 | The Federal Trade Commission told Congress in 1996, “No expenditures have been reported in this category [“endorsements and testimonials”] since 1988.” However, RJ Reynolds was paying Rogers & Cowan to obtain placement for its brands in the U.S. and Europe through 1992; and American Tobacco operated its product placement program through UPP into the spring of 1994.

Reynolds American absorbed RJ Reynolds in 2004. British American Tobacco owns a controlling 42 percent interest in Reynolds American. Reynolds American acquired the American Spirit brands in 2001 and Lorillard in 2015.